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Watching Iran from afar

28 May 2005
Over the past weeks, I've been helping to coordinate openDemocracy's blog on the Iranian elections, Iran Scan 1384. It's piqued my curiosity for the politics of the region immensely, and as the elections on June 17th draw closer I encourage everyone to peek in and feel the heat. In Iran, presidential candidates can only run if they are approved by the "Guardian Council". At first the Council only approved conservatives and a fundamentalist - and no reformists. This caused outrage among pro-democracy advocates in Iran. Then, Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, ordered the Guardian Council to reconsider two reformist candidates, Dr. Moin and Mr. Mehr-Alizadeh, using a constitutional law/tool called the "Sovereign's Decree". As it happens, Dr. Moin (the only candidate who keeps an active weblog) has long campaigned against the Sovereign's Decree, and many of his supporters are saying if he accepts the candidacy they will consider him a hypocrite. Hossein Derakshan polled his readers, about what they thought Moin should do and he reported the result in Iran Scan 1384. The whole election is a tangled affair. There is widespread apathy and lack of faith in the validity of the elections, but also glimmers of hope which are worth celebrating. Hossein says the elections are inspiring an unbelievable amount of political discussion and opinion in newspapers and on the web, and even joked today over lunch that he wished there were elections there every day. I'll temper the optimism by sharing a link to Reporters Without Borders' Blog Awards. They have a whole category for Iran. Just scroll down to see how many of the short listed bloggers and journalists have been imprisoned. Depressing. These Iranian activists deserve our attention.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals


To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.


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