Election Day: News Networks Blocked, Campaign Workers Limited, Universities Closed
As Iranians cast their votes for president today, authorities are blocking foreign Persian-language television stations, shutting down university campuses, and denying permissions and visas to some poll workers and foreign reporters.
In Tehran on election day, access to Persian-language satellite television networks Voice of America and BBC Persian has been blocked and the channels are no longer viewable. A homemaker in Tehran informed the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran that the TV channels have been blocked since midnight last night. She added that other Persian-language channels that focus on music and entertainment remain accessible.
Reacting to objections from presidential candidate Hassan Rowhani’s campaign staff about the Interior Ministry’s refusal to issue identification cards for polling station observers, Tehran Governor Issa Fahadi said, “Some websites are complaining that some campaign representatives have not been issued cards. I must say that I managed this issue myself and there is no problem.” The Campaign has learned that many Rowhani campaign workers were not issued observer identification cards, and that the Tehran Governor’s Office informed them that their application files had been “incomplete.” According to Fars News Agency, Rowhani’s representative in the Elections Oversight Headquarters has said that the candidate’s observers are currently present in 25% of the polling stations, and that the reason for their absence in the remaining polling stations is a “lack of human resources.” Hassan Rowhani is the only presidential candidate on the ballot who is close to reformists.
All university campuses in Tehran are shut down today, including Tehran University, where many of the student protests have taken place over the past years. “There was no talk of protests among the students, but the safe space where students could protest has been taken away,” a student told the Campaign. Regarding the possibility of fraud and potential objections to the results, Rowhani’s campaign representative has said, “Mr. Rowhani has not asked for anything outside of the legal process, has consistently invited his supporters to observe the law, and will certainly obey the laws after the election.”
A foreign reporter who is currently in Tehran told the Campaign that he has been assigned a translator who must be informed of all his appointments and the names of all individuals he wishes to interview. “When I asked to talk with a reformist figure, my translator told me that it’s dangerous, forget about this name…. It’s not possible for us to go just anywhere in the city for an interview.” On June 13, Kayhan Newspaper quoted a security official who clearly spoke about the pessimism of Islamic Republic officials about foreign reporters. “Referring to the role of suspicious [people] and intelligence elements who appeared as reporters during the previous Iranian elections, he added, ‘These individuals were active in inciting, disturbing, rioting, and creating insecurity. Through the state intelligence apparatus’ astuteness and preventive actions, these individuals were identified and they were not granted permission to enter Iran, and this is why in an unprofessional move, some reporters received security and espionage orders under the guise of Reporters Without Borders,’ ” Kayhan Newspaper wrote.
But a Western reporter who was not issued a visa told the Campaign that the only reason she can imagine for the refusal of her visa application was that she reported the truth during her previous visit to Iran. “I met with the Iranian Charge d’Affaires and told him about my visa request. He said it all depended on how I reported during previous trips. He said very clearly that the Intelligence Ministry would review my application, and that the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance only receives my application, but they are not the reviewers. All my reports were done from the city and through interviews with individuals and my personal observations, it was nothing more. I was very surprised when they rejected my visa application,” the reporter told the Campaign.
The Elections Headquarters issued a statement and extended the voting time for an additional two hours until 8:00 p.m. throughout the country. The extension includes polling stations outside the country, as well. “In many polling stations, including where I work, as soon as a ballot box fills up, counting begins. We are not waiting for the voting to end,” a poll worker in Iran told the Campaign.