Reporters Without Borders says free elections cannot possibly take place in Iran because the widespread “crackdown on journalists and netizens” prevents voters from getting the “independently reported news and information they need to make a choice.”

In a statement issued today, on the eve of the parliamentary elections scheduled for March 2, Reporters Without Borders writes: “The governmental media are free to organize the regime’s propaganda for this election ‘among friends’ but the authorities have imposed all-out censorship on the media, even the ones that support the regime, and oversee their work closely.”

The report continues: “The orders are clear – the only stories to be published are those that encourage people to go and vote.”

Reformists groups have widely announced that they will not participate in the elections in protest against the continued house arrest of opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Zahra Rahnavard as well as the many political prisoners serving severe sentences in connection with the disputed results of the 2009 presidential elections.

The press-rights group writes: “Since the start of the campaign, the media have received directives instructing them to refer to the ‘Iranian people’s great victory’ and not to mention or cover certain stories such as the boycott calls by several political currents. In the past few days, judicial officials have even called newspaper editors to dictate their front page and demand their silence on certain subjects.”

The report describes billboards that line the streets of major Iranian cities with messages like “If you don’t participate in the elections, the westerners will attack the country” and “If the turnout is not more than 50 per cent, United States will attack Iran.”

There has been some speculation about possible military attacks on Iran over its nuclear disputes with the international community. Messages to that effect are reportedly being aired across state radio and television stations.

Reporters Without Borders writes: “As a result of the imprisonment of journalists, the closure of newspapers, the filtering of news websites, the jamming of satellite TV stations and the suppression of critical opinion, these elections cannot be conducted in normal manner and are therefore meaningless.”

Reporters Without Borders says many foreign reporters have been unable to obtain visas to cover the elections. However, Iran’s head of foreign correspondents at the Ministry of Culture and Guidance told ISNA that more than 80 press permits have been issued to foreign journalists from 53 foreign media outlets.