The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has condemned Iran's use of the judiciary to harass and prosecute journalists for "simply doing their job" and warned of increased harassment of media workers ahead of a presidential election next month.
The watchdog noted pressure put recently on some journalists who had sought to report on the background and alleged human rights violations committed by Ebrahim Raisi, a hard-line cleric in charge of Iran's judiciary, as evidence of growing harassment on independent reporting.
The IFJ said some critical journalists have been subjected to pressure and "a few of them" were summoned to appear before judicial or security authorities.
Raisi is one of seven candidates who have been approved by the Guardians Council to run in the June 18 vote.
"This is yet another example of how the Iranian government uses the legal system to clamp down on independent voices in the country," IFJ General Secretary Anthony Bellanger said.
"Iranian journalists must be able to report about the presidential campaign free from judicial warnings and pressures from the authorities," he added.
Earlier this week the Interior Ministry said the council had approved Raisi, Mohsen Rezai, Saeed Jalili, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh-Hashemi, Abdolnasser Hemmati, Mohsen Mehralizadeh, and Alireza Zakani to run in the election.
The exclusion of several high-profile allies of outgoing President Hassan Rohani has put Raisi in a dominant position for the upcoming election.
He's the best-known candidate of the seven hopefuls, has close ties to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and ran against Rohani in the last presidential election, in 2017.
Rohani, a relative moderate whose government is taking part in talks to revive the 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, cannot seek reelection after having served two consecutive four-year terms.
On May 26 he said he has urged Khamenei to widen the field in the campaign to increase competition, which is "the heart of elections."