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Blocking Information In Iran

Iran's clerical regime has ordered Iranian internet service providers to reduce the speed of internet access for homes and internet cafes. So far, businesses have not been affected.

The slower connection speed will make it much more difficult to access and download western news, movies, and television programs. It also will impede efforts by Iranian dissidents to upload information onto the web.

The hindering of internet access comes amid a fierce government crackdown on the media. Iranian police recently seized and destroyed thousands of privately owned satellite television dishes.

In September, the country's leading reformist newspaper, Shargh, joined the long list of publications shut down by the government. Individual journalists are also being targeted. According to press reports, Azeri Iranian journalist Reza Abbasi has been sentenced to one year in prison for "insulting" state officials and engaging in anti-government propaganda. Mr. Abbasi is a member of the Association for the Defense of Azerbaijani Political Prisoners.

According to the Paris-based press freedom organization Reporters Without Borders, six other Iranian journalists have been recently arrested. Three - Farhad Aminpour, Reza Alipur, and Saman Solimani - work for the Kurdish-language daily newspaper Rouji Ha Lat. Their families have not heard from them since their arrest and do not know where they are being detained.

On October 16th, says Reporters Without Borders, the pro-reform Farsi-language weekly Safir Dashtestan was closed, and its publisher and editor were arrested along with an editorial assistant. The weekly had recently published a satirical article about Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

U.S. State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey commented on the Iranian government's continuing assault on free expression:

"We certainly condemn the systematic restrictions on freedom of speech and press that are occurring in Iran, and we urge the [Iranian] regime to respect the rights of its citizens."

U.S. State Department spokesman Kurtis Cooper says, "We call on the Iranian government . . .to release those arrested and imprisoned for insisting on their universal rights to freedom of expression and association."

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.