Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently spoke of the urge by some governments to control every “voice or public sphere”:
“They want to control what gets printed in newspapers, who gets into universities, what companies get oil contracts, what churches and NGOs get registered, where citizens can gather – so, why not the internet?”
The Iranian regime’s continuing crackdown on internet freedom shows it is just such a government.
Authorities have announced new rules for internet cafes. Owners must require patrons to register their personal information, which will be kept on file for six months, and security cameras must be installed.
Not content with blocking millions of websites, authorities are going forward with plans to withdraw from the world-wide web and create a filtered, national internet.
The repression of bloggers and other web users continues. On January 17th, the Supreme Court upheld the death sentence for web programmer Saeed Malekpour, who was convicted of “insulting and desecrating Islam,” after what observers say was a grossly unfair trial. Blogger Vahid Asghari and website administrator Ahmad Reza Hashempour are also on death row after similarly flawed proceedings.
In the month of January alone, Simin Nematollahi, a contributor to a pro-Sufi website, was arrested at her Tehran home; Mohammad Soleimaninya, translator and head of u24, a social networking website for Iranian professionals, was arrested after being summoned before a revolutionary tribunal in Karaj; bloggers and journalists Marzieh Rasouli and Parastoo Dokouhaki were arrested by security forces at their homes in Tehran.
Secretary of State Clinton says “the right to express one’s views, practice one’s faith, peacefully assemble with others to pursue political or social change – these are all rights to which all human beings are entitled, whether they choose to exercise them in a city square or an internet chat room.”
Iranian authorities must face the condemnation of the global community not only for their violations of the rights of their citizens in the material world, but for the attempts to abrogate them in cyber space, as well.