Regulations adopted on 27 November with the aim of facilitating control of the Internet have been openly used for the first time by the Iranian authorities to justify blocking access to the conservative online publication Baztab.com, Reporters Without Borders said today.
The press freedom organisation also confirmed that the photo-sharing site Flickr.com is not accessible in Iran, while several Internet Service Providers are still blocking YouTube.com and access to the Farsi-language pages of the Reporters Without Borders website (www.rsf.org) is being blocked with increasing frequency.
"We condemned the November decree for various reasons," Reporters Without Borders said. "The first reason was the requirement for website editors to register with the authorities. Although impossible to implement, it provides grounds for arbitrarily closing online publications which the authorities do not like. The second reason was its creation of an 'Internet surveillance body' under the control of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation that is supposed, inter alia, to combat the publication of 'false information'."
The organisation added: "The authorities are making open use of the decree for the first time, and we see that the target is a website that supports Ayatollah Khamenei, in what is a war within the conservative camp. The regulations are almost certainly also being used to block access to 'immoral' sites such as Flickr or YouTube."
The Baztab.com site was banned on 12 February for violating last November's rules, which forbid the publication of "false" information, "violating the constitution" and attacking "personal privacy" or "the country's unity." The site recently published reports on Iran's nuclear industry and on corruption in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was lambasted (for an example of a Baztab article go to www.rsfblog.org).
The site's editors have protested against the ban, insisting that parliament is responsible for anything to do with control of the media and that the November decree is "illegal" and "unconstitutional."
Aside from the partial or complete blocking of the Flickr, YouTube and www.rsf.org websites, Reporters Without Borders has noticed that several news aggregators are also now banned in Iran. The blognews.1bn.eu site, which has a review of Farsi-language blogs, and balatarin.com, which allows visitors to vote on articles (on the model of the US site Digg) have both been blocked for several weeks.
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