The Committee to Protect Journalists has joined 34 other organizations in calling on the U.N. Human Rights Council to vote in favor of renewing the mandate of the special rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The vote is scheduled to take place during the 31st session of the council, which ends March 24.
In the joint letter, the organizations drew attention to the range of "serious and systematic violations" of civil and political rights in Iran, as well as the need for the council to urge Iranian authorities to implement long overdue legal changes that would address the grievances of those who have borne the brunt of human rights abuses.
Journalists and other political and civic actors are "arbitrarily detained and given increasingly harsh prison sentences, often for trumped-up national security-related charges," the letter said. Iran is one of the leading jailers of journalists, with 19 behind bars as of CPJ's annual prison census on December 1. Ahead of last month's legislative elections, journalists were arrested and at least one publication was banned, CPJ research shows.
One of those arrested was Issa Saharkhiz, a prominent journalist who contributed to opposition news website Rooz Online, whose health has deteriorated since he was taken into custody on November 2, his son told CPJ. Saharkhiz is charged with "propagating against the state" and "assembly and collusion against national security," according to his lawyer. On Friday, the journalist was transferred to a hospital due to health complications from prolonged hunger strikes, news reports said.