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UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein has called on Iran to temporarily halt executions for drug offenses until parliament debates a new law to end the mandatory death penalty for such crimes.

"Given the broadening recognition in Iran that the death penalty does not deter drug crime and that antinarcotics laws need to be reformed, I call on Iran to take the important first step of instituting a moratorium on the use of the death penalty," he said in a press statement issued on April 14.

Last weekend, five men were hanged in Iran, three of them on charges of narcotics trafficking.

So far this year, 60 executions have reportedly been carried out in Iran. Zeid noted that this represents a drop compared to the same period last year.

According to the latest UN report on human rights in Iran, Tehran carried out nearly 1,000 executions in 2015, the highest rate in over two decades, and many of them juveniles.

The U.S.-based Committee To Protect Journalists (CPJ) has called on Turkish authorities to protect journalists after a Syrian reporter was targeted by members of the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in southeastern Turkey.

Mohammed Zahir al-Sherqat, a television journalist, was shot at close range over the weekend while walking on the street in Gaziantep, near the border with Syria.

He died in a hospital on April 12.

IS claimed responsibility for the attack, the fourth assassination of a Syrian journalist in Turkey claimed by the extremist group.

"Turkish authorities must urgently demonstrate that killing journalists on the streets of Turkey is unacceptable and will not go unpunished," Nina Ognianova, CPJ’s Europe and Central Asia coordinator, said in a statement.

The U.S. State Department condemned the "vicious murder" and said it stood "ready to support Turkey as it works to bring to justice those responsible for attacks on the media."

“Freedom of the press, including ensuring that journalists can safely report on the crisis in Syria, remains critical as reporters keep working to expose the truth about this brutal conflict and [IS] atrocities,” the State Department said in a statement.

Based on reporting by Reuters and AP

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"Watchdog" is a blog with a singular mission -- to monitor the latest developments concerning human rights, civil society, and press freedom. We'll pay particular attention to reports concerning countries in RFE/RL's broadcast region.

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