Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Telegraph | News | Iran's war on weblogs - the new voice of dissidents

Telegraph | News | Iran's war on weblogs - the new voice of dissidents: "

Iran's war on weblogs - the new voice of dissidents
By Lillian Swift

Iran is fighting a constant battle against dissenters who are using the internet to voice criticism of the Islamic Republic and to push for freedom and democracy.

With the closure of most independent newspapers and magazines in Iran, blogging - publishing an online diary - has become a powerful tool in the dissidents' arsenal by providing individuals with a public voice.

An Iranian blogger known as Saena, wrote recently: 'Weblogs are one weapon that even the Islamic Republic cannot beat.'

There are an estimated 100,000 active blogs written by Iranians both within the country and across the diaspora. Persian ties with French as the second most common blogging language after English.

Over the last year, however, Iranian authorities have arrested and beaten dozens of bloggers, charged with crimes such as espionage and insulting leaders of the Islamic Republic. Among them is Omid Sheikhan, who last month was sentenced to one year in prison and 124 lashes of the whip for writing a blog that featured satirical cartoons of Iranian politicians.

The press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders last week named Iran as one of 15 countries who were 'enemies of the internet'.

'These new measures point to an ideological hardening in the Iranian government and a desire by the new president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, to centralise authority,' its report said.

There is no legislation against blogging itself but the writers can be charged by authorities in the hardline theocracy with 'morality violations' for the content of their websites.

Nevertheless, Iranians are increasingly turning to blogs and those who can publish their words in English hope they will reach a wider international audience and alert them to the problems facing free-thinkers within Iran.

The blogs offer everything from reprinting articles published in the international press about Iranian issues to views on the president's recent call for the destruction of the state of Israel and Iran's attempts to become a nuclear power. Some writers use the platform as an opportunity to voice opinions that would not be tolerated in the national press."

This is the country that was just pushing for control of the internet, remember? What a disaster that would have been! I hope Iran finds freedom soon!

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