The Islamic Republic’s parliament is honing regulations that would enable the authorities to execute anyone who speaks or sends images to foreign media outlets.
Since the current wave of protests began in Iran following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, the authorities have been trying to restrict the spread of information both within the country and from inside the country to the international community.
In its latest move, the regime plans to ratify laws that would pave the way for executing people who are helping the world hear the voices of dissent. When finalized, the new law would help the hardliner Judiciary issue death sentences for anyone contacting foreign-based media.
The plan “to intensify the punishment of collaborators with the actions of hostile countries against national security and interests” describes any cooperation with “hostile countries, including the US government” as espionage. It considers any such cooperation as “corruption on earth,” which is punishable by death according to the Islamic Republic's Penal Code. According to Article 286 of the Constitution, any serious disturbance in the public order, causing insecurity or major damage to people or public and private property, or spread of corruption or prostitution on a large scale, is considered a ‘corruption on earth’ offense and will lead to a death sentence.
Mobile phones and the Internet made it possible for citizens to record acts of violence and brutality by security forces, which was not possible two decades ago. This has exposed violations of citizens’ rights and has worried the Islamic Republic.
A committee, comprised of representatives from Intelligence Organization of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Intelligence Ministry, Army and Parliament’s National Security Committee, is tasked with determining those who are subjected to the new law.
Filming any criminal acts on streets, including those that lead to injury or death would be punishable by law. “In case of sending the videos or images to hostile or foreign networks, the perpetrator will be sentenced to the maximum penalty,” read the text of the draft bill. After getting the approval of the parliament's criminal law committee, this plan must be approved by the representatives in a public session, and finally, it must be approved by the Guardian Council and notified by the president to become a law.
On Monday, the head of Iran's notorious Judiciary, Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei, also called for prompt indictment of anyone who publishes “a false statement or an undocumented claim.” He called on judges to summon those people to the court as soon as possible, and if they do not provide documentation for their claim, “it is clear that they are acting in line with the enemy's goals.”
This means that once someone uses freedom of speech and criticizes the authorities, the Judiciary can indict and convict the person without due process of law, which is a common practice in Iranian courts.
The regime has tried all the tricks in the book, including internet shutdowns, arbitrary arrests, brutal crackdown, and threats both in Iran and abroad but dissent has increased. Whenever the internet is down, people find other ways to make their voices heard; whenever the regime intensifies its attacks on protesters and more people are killed or arrested it leads to more anger; and louder international condemnations.
Something that has especially outraged the Islamic Republic is the coverage of the developments in Iran by foreign-based media, especially Iran International, BBC, VOA, and Radio Farda, which are providing round-the-clock news about the popular uprising and the regime’s atrocities. Faced with nationwide antigovernment protests with no end in sight, the Islamic Republic keeps blaming these broadcasters of “fomenting unrest”, while all media in the country are under tight government control and present protesters as “rioters” and “terrorists”.
Iran’s Intelligence Minister Esmail Khatib on November 9 said the Islamic Republic regards Iran International as “a terrorist organization,” adding that its workers and anyone affiliated with the channel will be pursued by the Ministry of Intelligence.
London’s Metropolitan Police earlier this month informed Iran International of threats by Iranian agents against its journalists.