Reporters Without Borders expressed deep concern for the future of the Internet in Iran where censorship is now the rule rather than the exception, after the video sharing website YouTube and that of the US daily New York Times were added to the country’s blacklist.
In addition, the English version of the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia was blocked from 1-3 December 2006. These steps come two months after Iran banned high-speed Internet access.
"The government is trying to create a digital border to stop culture and news coming from abroad - a vision of the Net which is worrying for the country’s future”, the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
“But, more generally it is a threat to the worldwide web which, instead of aiding understanding between peoples could be changed into a medium of intolerance. The Iranian government policy is not an isolated case. It is getting closer and closer to that of the authorities in China, with particular stress being laid on censorship of cultural output”, it added.
Tests carried out by Reporters Without Borders confirm that the YouTube (www.youtube.com) and the New York Times have been inaccessible in Iran since 1st December. The US daily is regularly blocked in Iran, but this censorship is generally temporary. Some videos condemning Internet censorship in Iran are circulating on YouTube, including: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jRkQMv-3R2k&mode=related&search=
Iranian Internet-users say that the Kurdish version of Wikipedia has been blocked by the authorities for several months. The online encyclopaedia, which allows Internet-users to contribute to the content, is seen as a threat by governments which improperly control the media.
Tehran decided at the end of October to ban fast Internet connections (above 128 kilobits per second). The British daily The Guardian quoted Iranian officials as saying that the step was to prevent the “undermining [of] Islamic culture among the younger generation”.
Head of the Agency for the Development of Information Technology in Iran, Vafa Ghafaryan, told the official news agency ISNA that the government planned to enhance surveillance of “harmful” text messages.
Iran has for several years condemned a "cultural invasion” launched by its "enemies". President Mahmud Ahmadinejad seems determined to follow the Chinese authorities step by step. China has been blocking Wikipedia since October 2005 and regularly censors some pages of the New York Times. YouTube is still inaccessible in the country, but officials in Chongqing province said in October that they were take legal action against some users of the service for circulating satirical videos. The Chinese authorities have also said on several occasions since 2002 that they had set up systems to intercept and censor text messages.
Iran and China are both on Reporters Without Borders’ list of the 13 enemies of the Internet. Governments of both countries have objected to their inclusion and say they only filter illegal or immoral content.
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