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Iranian authorities boast of success in Internet filtering

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Iran is doing its utmost to isolate its citizens from the rest of the world by purging the Internet of independent content, in the name of ‘morality’, says Reporters Without Borders, noting that the authorities even brag about the success of their censorship.

photo: Fars

"We are filtering more than 10 million websites", boasted the technical head of the Iranian company in charge of Internet censorship, on 11 September 2006.

The worldwide press freedom organisation said it was difficult to check this statement but it had monitored an increase in filtering since the start of summer 2006. Censorship seems particularly targeted against sites dealing with the condition of women, it noted.

"In the name of ’morality’, the Iranian Internet is being cleansed of all independent news and information, all political opposition and all information about the rights or the condition of women.

“The party’s leaders, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the head, know on the other hand how to exploit the Internet to get across their political opinions, particular through their personal blogs, the organisation said.

“At a time when the government is closing the last remaining newspapers showing even slight independence, this resurgence in censorship is unsurprising. The authorities are constantly seeking to isolate their citizens even further from the rest of the world, so as to boost their authority and to aggravate the population’s hostility to the outside world.”

“We support the efforts of the Iranian blogger community to circulate uncensored information in spite of this,” the organisation said.

Esmail Radkani, technical head of the company, Information and Technology, which runs the filtering of the Iranian Internet, said in an interview to the news website Citna on 11 September 2006: "We are filtering more than 10 million websites. Every month we add one thousand online publications to our black list, at the request of the competent authorities. We also have software which every day enters 200-300 banned sites to our data base.”

He also specified that more than "90 percent of websites are filtered because of their “immoral” character.

In Iran, the filtering of online publications can theoretically only be done by the courts or by the “committee in charge of determining unauthorised sites”. This body, set up in 2002, is made up of representatives from the culture ministry, the intelligence services and radio and television, as well as members of the Council for the Cultural Revolution.

Since the start of the summer, many feminist websites have been added to the list of banned sites. For example, one week after a demonstration in June calling for constitutional reform in favour of women’s rights, the feminist sites Zanestan and Canon Zeman Iran were blocked and remain inaccessible in the country. The censors even filtered the Islamic decrees about women appearing on the site of Aayatollah Saanei, a former official of the Iranian justice system.

Copyright (c) 2006 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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