In addition to the arrests and executions of protesters, the Iranian government has also been cracking down on journalists who report on the protests.
One such journalist, Mehdi Beik, was arrested on Thursday night by agents of the Ministry of Information. The reasons for his arrest are not known, but it is suspected that it is related to his recent work interviewing families of protesters who had been sentenced to death.
Beik is a journalist at the reformist newspaper Etemad and is the head of the politics desk. According to US-funded Radio Farda, he is the third journalist whose arrest has been reported in the past week. At least 73 journalists and photojournalists have been arrested since the protests began, according to the pro-reform Faraz news site.
The arrests and executions of protesters, as well as the crackdown on journalists, are a clear attempt by the Iranian government to stamp out the ongoing anti-government protests.
The protests began in September following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who was detained by morality police for allegedly wearing her hijab, or headscarf, “improperly”. They quickly spread across the country, becoming the most serious challenge to the Islamic Republic since its inception in 1979.
The Iranian authorities have tried to stamp out the protests with mass arrests, the use of live fire and through intimidating those they perceive to be linked to protesters or in some way support them. They have also accused foreign forces of fuelling the unrest.
So far, at least 516 protesters have been killed, including 70 children, and 19,262 others arrested, according to the foreign-based Human Rights Activists’ News Agency (HRANA). It has also reported the deaths of 68 security personnel.
Two protesters have been executed and some 12 others sentenced to death, according to AFP news agency. Half are awaiting retrial, it says.
The arrests and executions of protesters, as well as the crackdown on journalists, have been widely condemned by human rights organizations and international governments.
Amnesty International has called on the Iranian authorities to immediately release all those who have been arrested solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
In a statement, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Lynn Maalouf, said:
"The Iranian authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all those arrested solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The use of the death penalty against protesters is a grotesque and utterly unacceptable attack on human rights."
The United States has also condemned the arrests and executions of protesters and the crackdown on journalists. The situation in Iran remains tense, with protesters continuing to take to the streets despite the government’s efforts to stamp out the unrest.
The international community must continue to speak out against the human rights violations being committed by the Iranian government and call for the immediate release of those who have been arrested solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
In the mean time, the arrested journalist’s wife, Zahra, said in a tweet on Friday that Mehdi Beik had been “detained by agents of the Ministry of Information and his cell phone, laptop and belongings were seized”. Colleagues and journalists expressed shock and anger at his arrest, posting expressions of support on social media. Iran-based journalist Elham Nadaf tweeted: “They have killed journalism in this country and now they are mutilating its corpse!”