Friday, January 12, 2007

Iran: Bloggers Rebel at Censorship

IRAN: Bloggers Rebel at New Censorship by Omid Memarian

In a bid to clamp down even harder on information disseminated through the Internet, Iran's hardliner government has demanded the registration of all websites and weblogs sourced in the country by Mar. 1, drawing objections from many Iranian bloggers who say the move clearly violates free speech. A committee of government officials, including members of the intelligence, judiciary, telecommunications, and culture and Islamic guidance ministries, will be in charge of approving the content of websites. The committee is commissioned with blocking or filtering websites or weblogs that they deem illegal. Over the last few years, the government has banned and filtered thousands of websites and weblogs without explanation. However, for the first time, the new law is specific about what kinds of content are not allowed.

Website and weblog registrars must also provide personal information about themselves. Bloggers or website managers who fail to do so risk being shut down, penalized and if the case ends up in court, the accused may find themselves in prison. Some activists plan to defy the new requirements. Farnaz Seify, a feminist blogger in Tehran, told IPS, "The government's new policy of forcing registrations indicates that the authorities are making it clear that no one is permitted to criticize or even discuss religion, government's policies, revolution, ayatollahs and social problems."

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