restrict the right to freedom of expression online through the criminalisation of vaguely worded
offences such as the “dissemination of lies” and what is deemed to offend “public morality and
chastity”.8 The 1986 Press Law and its subsequent amendments also significantly obstruct the
right to freedom of expression, particularly for the media.9 The law mentions that publications
should “duly [observe] Islamic criteria and the best interests of the community”. It also provides
twelve conditions under which the press might be censored, including “publishing heretical
articles”, “spreading fornication and forbidden practices”, and “propagating and spreading
These restrictions are reiterated in the revised version of the Islamic Penal Code,11 adopted in
2013. For instance, those participating in peaceful unauthorised assemblies can be sentenced to
prison terms on the charges of “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national
security” (Article 610 of the Islamic Penal Code),12 “forming a group composed of more than
two people with the purpose of disrupting national security” (Article 498) 13 and/or “membership
of a group with the purpose of disrupting national security” (Article 499). Other criminal charges
include “spreading propaganda against the system”, 14 conspiracy against the State,15
encouragement to “violate public morals”16, as well as satire.17 Similar vaguely worded
provisions criminalize acts such as swearing at18 or insulting19 “the Great Prophet of Islam”, as
well as “sowing corruption on earth”20 with the death penalty.
All the aforementioned restrictions fail to meet requirements of international standards, including
the principles of legality and requirements that limitations must be necessary, proportionate and
in pursuit of one of a limited number of narrowly-drawn legitimate aims.21 Consequently, the
current Iranian legal framework grants authorities’ significant discretion to impose overbroad
and vague restrictions on individuals’ rights in contravention of the Iran’s international human
rights obligations. As freedom of expression, assembly and association are central to the work of
HRDs, they are particularly exposed to State restriction and repression.


“Islamic Republic of Iran: Computer Crimes Law,” ARTICLE19, 2012.
The Press Law and its subsequent amendments up until 2002 is available at:
Iranian Press Law, Article 6.
The Islamic Penal Code available at:
The new Islamic Penal Code was introduced in 2013 for an experimental period of five years and was revised in 2016. See the
most updated version of the Islamic Penal Code here on the website of the Iranian parliament:
Article 498 Islamic Penal Code 2013,
Article 500 Islamic Penal Code 2013,
Article 610 Islamic Penal Code 2013,
Article 639 Islamic Penal Code 2013,
Article 700 Islamic Penal Code 2013,
Article 262 Islamic Penal Code 2013,
Article 513 Islamic Penal Code 2013,
Article 286 Islamic Penal Code 2013.
Article 19, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


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