Ohmynews While observers speculate about the risk of Iran developing nuclear weapons and the possibility of a U.S. military attack against Iran, we seem not to be giving adequate attention toward the actual situation of ordinary Iranian citizens. Iranians live under significant oppression from their government, including restrictions on the freedom of expression and many instances of suppression of other basic democratic norms.
During the presidency of Mohammad Khatami (from August 1997 to August 2005), the government of Iran did significantly relax press censorship. There were some hard-line fundamentalists who vehemently refuted the government's decision, saying that it "encouraged immorality." However, despite the opposition, many literary works and other books managed to get published uncensored during his presidency.
During the presidency of Mohammad Khatami (from August 1997 to August 2005), the government of Iran did significantly relax press censorship.
Reports suggest that the media is seeing a significant rise in censorship from the present government led by President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, more than under any government in the past. Such suppression has come about systematically, in the name of abiding by the "law" of the country, due to which several journalists and editors have been imprisoned and a considerable number of press and broadcast media have been closed down. Due to the suffocation of not being able to express their opinions freely, many journalists and writers have left the country, and the remaining few independent media houses have ceased their dissents against the government.
The media restriction includes the banning of satellite television, student publications, books, newspapers, or magazines from criticizing the government, and filtering and limiting the materials available on the Internet. According to the Press Freedom Index compiled by the international journalism monitoring group, Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Iran stands 162nd out of 168th counties among the violators of the international norm of free speech.
Currently, in an intention to increase control over the information dissemination through the Internet, the Iran's government has made it compulsory for all the websites and bloggers to register with the proper authorities by the first of March. This has instantly invited resentment from Iranian bloggers and other media personnel in the country, who called it yet another attack against free speech.
Omid Me’marian, a journalist and blogger who lives in the U.S. and whose blog is popular among readers both in the U.S. and Iran, said to the BBC, "This law would result in many web sites and blogs being closed down. Or at the very least, they would become increasingly conservative".
Another journalist and blogger, Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, said that the new registration policy also breaches Iran's constitution. He said: "The approval of the cabinet doesn't make the government's decisions legitimate. It should pass the law via the parliament. However, it reflects the nature of the conservatives in Iran, who easily close their eyes to freedom of speech". Mirebrahimi asserted that though the government wants to control information by all means, it is impossible to control the Internet for a long time. He added that the government "is just wasting its time and money," as technology and passionate people who are desperate for awareness and knowledge will "find a way forward".
Iran has founded a governmental committee which would filter or prohibit a number of websites of blogs operating inside the country. The restriction would be imposed against any material that is deemed to be illegal by the government.
Bloggers or website founders who fail to abide by this highly restrictive legislation risk being shut down, fined, or even imprisoned. However, at least, the new move, for the first time, specifies what sort of content is meant to be banned, whereas over the last few years the government has banned and filtered thousands of websites and blogs without giving any explanation.
Bloggers or website founders who fail to abide by this highly restrictive legislation risk being shut down, fined, or even imprisoned.
To speak or write freely or to voice dissent against the unsatisfactory aspects of the government requires courage in a country like Iran. Some Iranian writers who abide by the adage of free speech and have voiced their dissent fearlessly, for which they had to suffer the government's maltreatment, were among the 45 writers from 22 countries to receive the prestigious Hellman/Hammett award on 7 February.
The award, which is given by Human Rights Watch, recognizes and credits the writers globally who happen to be the victims of any kind of political persecution.
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said, "The past year was a particularly difficult one for Iranian writers who had to work in an ever more restrictive atmosphere of new publishing rules and policies. It is important to draw international attention to their achievements under the current repressive policies". ENDS PRESS CRACKDOWN 10207
Editor’s note: The above article was posted on 9 February 2007 by Ohmynews
Highlights are by IPS