Online dictatorship in the Islamic Republic of Iran

Since the post-presidential election of 2009, the Islamic republic of Iran has intensified its crackdown on media including bloggers and even micro-blogging environments like Facebook and twitter. Although the crackdown on media has been a common practice in the Islamic republic, this time, the gravity of the situation is far beyond the expected level of censorship.

There are plenty of articles about censorship of International media and Iranian papers since the post-election protests, but oddly enough, I have not seen anything solid about the crackdown on Iranian bloggers and their plight for freedom of speech during this time. Is it the competition among Iranian Journalism and blogs had anything to do with the lack of information about Iranian bloggers situation since then? It might be, but I do not have enough data to discuss this issue now. Considering that Iranian bloggers are true and genuine force for democracy and freedom on cyberspace, I think there should be more attention on this area within the Iranian online community.

While Iran holds strong opposition against freedom of speech and free flow of information, Iranian bloggers and online community keep growing faster than ever. I guess we owe this to the tyranny of regime and lack of freedom in our public lives that have been transforming many average Iranians with access to the Internet to a dissent voice on the Internet and that’s something that we need to cherish and give them more voice on the media, instead of blocking their voice due to rivalry. So, let me check up on the situation of some of Iranian bloggers in the aftermath of the contested presidential election, 2009.

Trend of threatening voices in Iran - Source: Threatened Voices

Trend of threatening voices in Iran – Source: Threatened Voices

Past months emerged with distressing news about Iranian bloggers. Hamed Saber, a photo blogger, diligently took photos of post-election protests and shared them on his Flickr and Picasa account with world. He was excited about his first photojournalism experience in the midst of protests, he ignored all warnings and possible long term prison term only to capture more shots from protesters on the streets of Tehran. Finally authorities arrested him last month and since then he imprisoned without any charge.

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki known as “Babak Khorramdin”, a blogger and a member of Iran Proxy group has been arrested more than 8 months ago and has been tortured and forced to make televised confessions. Iran Proxy was an underground group to combat Internet censorship specially during tyhe post-election crisis. Iran clamped down on communication systems and exercised severe Internet restrictions at that time.

Fariborz Shamshiri an outspoken, somehow controversial Iranian English language blogger and a militant atheist, spoke up about death threats he has been receiving for a long time. Fariborz Shamshiri writes at “Rotten Gods” and “Stop torturing us“. He criticizes Iranian government, theocracy and he is an ardent defender of Free Speech and Human Rights. His blog has been famous for covering post-election news for English language readers in 2009. While he has gone into hiding, in fear of his life, nevertheless he keeps updating his blog.

Nasour Naghipour, a blogger who was arrested in March 2010, has been released pending trial after payment of 100 million toman (75,000 euros) in bail. He was imprisoned for 110 days in the infamous Evin prison. His lawyer had not been granted access to his client’s file during his detention, and the officials have not named any specific charge on Naghipour’s case. It is important to note that he published articles on philosophy, culture and art on his weblog and website

Hossein Derakhshan known as ‘blogfather of the Iranian’ blogsphere, the most controversial Iranian blogger who helped to popularize blogging in Islamic republic of Iran, gone to trial. He served nearly 600 days in jail before to go to trial since he was arrested in November 2008. His fate is still unclear and there are more blogger like him. At the meantime there are many other bloggers in prison which turns Iran to the biggest prison for bloggers and journalists.

These are only a handful examples of Iranian bloggers which, either government put them in jail or threatened their life. There are some that choose to use their real name and some other who write anonymously in order to stay out of trouble. Iran also uses scare tactics to repress freedom of speech on the Internet. However Iranian bloggers have stood up against all the odds and carried on writing about their experience and knowledge from Iran. This helped to let the outside world better understand what is going on under the Islamic republic.

I personally follow many Iranian bloggers and I see their diverse opinions about this country, its politics, and also their dreams and hopes for it. It feels like they have an online democracy and freedom of speech that they truly wish for in their everyday life. I think that a little moral and technological support will be a great help for their cause to achieve the open democracy that they crave for.

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