Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Web Censorship Intensifies in Iran

The Guardian reports that the Iranian regime has shut down a web site that was "fiercely critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad":

Baztab, a fundamentalist site that has previously accused Mr Ahmadinejad of betraying the Islamic revolution by attending a female dance show, has been closed for acting against the constitution and undermining national unity.

The order coincided with the confirmation of Gholamhossein Elham, who has voiced support for legal restraints on press freedom, as Iran's new minister of justice. Mr Elham, previously the government's official spokesman, last year urged prosecutors to pursue news outlets that printed "lies" about Mr Ahmadinejad's government.

His appointment came as the government disclosed new measures to monitor and restrict unofficial news websites.



According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, this was the first time that a November decree requiring all Iranian web sites to register with the government has been used by the regime. Their press release on the banning of Baztab provides some additional details on this development:

The press freedom organisation also confirmed that the photo-sharing site Flickr.com is not accessible in Iran, while several Internet Service Providers are still blocking YouTube.com and access to the Farsi-language pages of the Reporters Without Borders website (www.rsf.org) is being blocked with increasing frequency.

"We condemned the November decree for various reasons," Reporters Without Borders said. "The first reason was the requirement for website editors to register with the authorities. Although impossible to implement, it provides grounds for arbitrarily closing online publications which the authorities do not like. The second reason was its creation of an ’Internet surveillance body’ under the control of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation that is supposed, inter alia, to combat the publication of ’false information’."



If there is a silver lining to this story, it is that the banning of Baztab isn't so much a crushing of broader societal dissent as it is a reflection of a struggle within the Iranian regime itself. RSF explains:

The organisation added: "The authorities are making open use of the decree for the first time, and we see that the target is a website that supports Ayatollah Khamenei, in what is a war within the conservative camp. The regulations are almost certainly also being used to block access to ’immoral’ sites such as Flickr or YouTube."


With the Iranian regime banning a web site that supports that country's supreme ruler, Ayatollah Khamenei, it can truly be said that the revolution is now censoring its own.

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