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9/30/06

Iran: Independent news website closed, blog platform briefly blocked


Reporters Without Borders today condemned the closure of Advar News, a news website linked to an independent student group called the Unity Consolidation Bureau, which has been shut down ever since intelligence agents raided its office on 19 September. A blog service, persianblog.com, was also briefly blocked “by mistake” by Iranian Internet Service Providers.

“The closure of Advar News clearly reflects the government’s desire to rid the Iranian Internet of all independent information concerning the political opposition, the women’s movement and human rights,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This was one of few sites in Iran that published uncensored information, and we call for it to reopened.”

Intelligence agents confiscated computers, files and CD-ROMs on 19 September when they raided the Office for Consolidating Unity’s premises, where Advar News was produced. Created in the runup to the 2005 presidential election, the website carried reports on human rights violations in Iran. Anyone now trying to connect to Advar News is redirected to a commercial site.

The raid took place on Unity Consolidation Bureau secretary-general Ali Akbar Mousavi Khoini’s 100th day in detention. Khoini was arrested while taking part in a peaceful demonstration in Tehran on 12 June in protest against the oppression of women in Iran and is currently being held in Evin prison.

A former pro-reform parliamentarian known for his radical stance in support of free expression, Khoini was the author of a parliamentary report that said the secret prisons that held dozens of journalists and political prisoners in 2001 and 2002 were illegal.

Persianblog.com editor Mehdi Botourabi reported on 23 September that access to his blog platform was being blocked by all of the country’s ISPs, which said they were acting on orders from the authorities. Access was restored the following day after the ministry of information technology and communication said persianblog.com had been blocked “by mistake.”

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