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What's the fuss about Iranian blogs?

23 February 2005

Iran's government isn't very tolerant when it comes to freedom of expression. In the past couple of years Iranian bloggers have become some of strongest defenders of freedom on the Net. According to this source there are more than 75,000 active Iranian blogs, most of them in Persian (here's a list of those in English). That's a lot. Most of us who surf around in English are completely oblivious to the fact that Persian is the fourth most popular web log language.

I first became aware of Iranian blogs when, Hossein Derakshan emailed openDemocracy last year the time of the UN World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) to tell us how Iranian president, Seyyid Mohammad Khatami, was exposed for lying about internet censorship in a WSIS press conference that was broadcast live on the web. We asked Hossein to put it in an article, "Censor this: Iran's web of lies". (The second phase of WSIS is taking place in November 2005 in Tunisia, and preparatory meetings started earlier this month.)

Unfortunately, as the bloggers have grown in importance, they've also more frequently become targets for arrests and torture. Official Iran is torn between the positive effect of spreading Persian and positive images of Iran around the world, and the negative (to them) effect of government criticism. Around half of 2000 Iranian bloggers polled around the time of the US presidential election on Hossein's website preferred Bush over Kerry, because they hoped he would invade Iran and unseat the regime. This view was most common among bloggers who still live in Iran. In a recent post, Hossein blames Iranian state media for making everybody believe in the opposite of whatever they say is bad.

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