Hardliners dominating Iran's parliament seen making a revolutionary pledge in 2020

New Law In Iran To Criminalize Critical Public Comments

Friday, 01/27/2023

A newspaper in Iran says the parliament's plan to add two new articles to the 'Islamic Penal Code' could further restrict civil liberties and freedom of speech.

According to Etemad newspaper, based on the new legislation, making any comment about the state of affairs in the country can land people in trouble, particularly politicians, political activists and celebrities.

The newspaper said that lawmakers at the Judiciary Committee wish to make sure that all public comments are identical with official version of developments. The headline of Etemad's report said: "Watch your mouth, you might be punished if what you say is different from the official reading!"

The paper said that the motion at the Majles is currently called "Adding one article to Chapter five of the Islamic Penal Code." The report in Etemad further opined that the new legislation may mainly target "well-known and famous" individuals.

The parliament had previously tabled another motion dubbed, "Adding two articles to Chapter five of the Islamic Penal Code," which called for changing articles 499 and 500 of the law. The new article 499 now calls for more severe punishment for those who "insult ethnic or religious minorities with the aim of instigating violence and tension," and the new article 500 intensifies the punishment of "those who commit criminal offenses against law enforcers and government buildings."

The amendments were made in December following months of protests in Iran during which occasional clashes occurred between heavily armed security forces such as the IRGC, police special forces, the Basij militia and plainclothes officers who attacked unarmed protesters.

The new change is about article 512 of the penal code which is about "those who provoke the people in order to disrupt the country's security through instigating war, massacres and civil strife."

The sentence for those who were charged with related offenses was imprisonment for five years, but the new addition is aimed at intensifying the punishment and making it easier for the courts to apply the article on anyone in jail as it is known today by human rights organizations that inmates are made to confess to crimes they have never committed.

The new legislation extends the duration of imprisonment to up to 15 years and also calls for the payment of up to 550 million rials no matter if the act committed "will or will not lead to murder and destruction of property."

Meanwhile, the new addition to the law says, "Anyone with a good job or with a good social standing or anyone who is a cultural, scientific, or military figure, even those with a high standing in their family" might be subjected to the new punishments "if they make a comment prior or contrary to official views about the state of the affairs in the country whether by word of mouth or on social media."

The legislation also warns that in certain cases, such comments might be assessed as "spreading corruption on the Earth," which entails death sentence.

The website of the Iranian parliament has restricted access to this part of the law based on users IP to bar foreigners and Iranians living abroad from accessing it or possibly telling the rest of the world about what Iran is doing to restrict civil liberties. The error message says: "Access denied --The request has been blocked from your IP at your location! This is due to some security settings of the website."

Based on this new legislation, an event such as the murder of Mahsa Amini in police custody should not be discussed on social media or otherwise as long as there is no definitive official attestation. In other words, no one can contradict what the government says about all issues, including for example inflation. A complaint about high prices could be interpreted as instigating unrest.

Mousa Ghazanfarabadi, the chairman of the Majles Judiciary Committee told Etemad that the new legislation is still being reviewed and its aim is to include “fake news, lies and rumors” within the jurisdiction of article 512. He mentioned Mahsa Amini's case and said that anyone makes a comment about the matter which could be categorized as lies, rumors and fake news will be additionally sentenced to up to ten years of deprivation from their social rights, and will be barred from going back to their job.

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