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Iran is gearing up for elections and it isn't pretty

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Though the country is putting on a brave face internationally, there is evidence that the contradiction of having nominally democratic institutions under a theocratic umbrella is growing ever tougher to sustain. The country is desperately trying to tamp down on the free flow of information.

Journalists, computer programmers targeted

Human Rights Watch reports that 10 journalists and bloggers have been arrested since the start of the year and the arrests "appear to be part of the government’s most recent campaign to disrupt the free flow of information ahead of parliamentary elections."

Most of those were arrested by armed government agents storming their homes. Human Rights Watch says all of the detainees "have been associated with reformist papers or websites critical of government policies."

The Committee to Protect Journalists says that Iran had 42 reporters locked up last year, the highest number in the world.

Earlier this month Vahid Ashgari, a computer programmer who has been in detention since 2008, was sentenced to death for spreading "corruption." He says that under torture he confessed to being involved in pornography, a capital crime in the Islamist Republic. Until his detention, he'd been involving in helping to set up websites critical of the government.

Last week the government also sentenced Saeed Malekpour, detained since 2008, to death. Mr. Malekpour is a computer programmer resident in Canada who was detained on a trip home to visit relatives. His pornography conviction stems from his development of an Internet photo-sharing tool that has been used by others to share pornography.

Amir Hekmati, an American-Iranian and former Marine translator, was also seized on a home visit and sentenced to death earlier this month, in his case on charges of spying, notwithstanding that he'd informed the Iranian government of his past in the US military and his travel plans before his visit.

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