Sunday, June 21, 2009

Iran: Escalation of attacks and censorship after elections


Iranian authorities have censored independent media sources, both local and
foreign, as anti-government protests have raged in the country following
last Friday's presidential elections, report ARTICLE 19, the Committee to
Protect Journalists (CPJ), Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other IFEX

The security services have moved into the offices of newspapers where they
are censoring content before they go to print, reports RSF. The 15 June
front page of "Etemad Meli", the paper of candidate Mehdi Karoubi, shows a
photo of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at a rally with a column left blank
because of editing by the censors.

Meanwhile, "Kalameh Sabz", the paper of Ahmedinejad's main challenger Mir
Hossein Mousavi, has not been able to publish since 13 June.

According to ARTICLE 19, the intelligence ministry has reportedly ordered
all newspapers not to write anything which questions the legitimacy of the

Ahmadinejad lashed out at the media shortly after he claimed victory in the
election that critics contend was marked by widespread voter fraud. At a
news conference on Sunday, he accused international media of launching a
"psychological war" against the country.

Staff from several international news organisations, including Belgian,
Spanish, Canadian, U.S., Emirati and Italian newscasters, have had tapes
confiscated, been ordered to leave the country, been beaten while covering
public protests and have even been detained, says ARTICLE 19.

Following a massive opposition rally on 15 June, authorities restricted
foreign journalists - including Iranians working for foreign media - from
reporting about the protests on the streets, report CPJ and the
International Press Institute (IPI). They could effectively only work from
their offices, conducting telephone interviews and monitoring official
sources, such as state TV.

The BBC said that electronic jamming of its news report, which it said
began on election day, had worsened by the end of the weekend, causing
service disruptions for BBC viewers and listeners in Iran, the Middle East
and Europe.

On 14 June, the authorities ordered the Tehran bureau of the Arab satellite
TV news station Al-Arabiya closed for a week after it broadcast video of
the first demonstration following the announcement of Ahmadinejad's
re-election, reports the Arabic Network for Human Rights Information

A range of social communications has also been disrupted inside Iran since
election day, including text messaging, social networking sites and
official campaign websites of the opposition that were being used to
organise protests. At least 10 pro-opposition websites have been censored,
says RSF. Then on 16 June, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard warned online
media to remove all content that might "create tension," or face legal
consequences, reports IPI.

But some protesters in Iran are reaching out to the West using special web
servers, such as one developed at the University of Toronto, to circumvent
efforts to block websites.

Plus, Iranians abroad are using social networking tools to instantly spread
news about their homeland. For instance, on Twitter, Hamid Akbari, a
university student in Toronto, follows eight people in Iran he has come to
trust, reports the "Toronto Star" newspaper. They tweet about where
protesters are gathering for a demonstration, and what police are doing.
Akbari then feeds that information to his 500 contacts back home by email
or through Facebook.

Meanwhile, 11 Iranian journalists have been arrested since 12 June,
including Reza Alijani, winner of the 2001 RSF-Fondation de France press
freedom prize. He was released two days later. According to RSF, there is
no word from about 10 other journalists who have either been arrested or
gone into hiding.

RSF reiterates its appeal to the international community not to recognise
the election results. "A democratic election is one in which the media are
free to monitor the electoral process and investigate fraud allegations but
neither of these two conditions has been met for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's
supposed re-election," RSF said.

Related stories on
- Government cracks down on foreign news media:
- Authorities crackdown on media in election aftermath:
- News and information fall victim to electoral coup:

More on the web:
- Twittering Iranians tell the world (Toronto Star):
- The 15 June front page of Etemad Meli, with a photo of President
Ahmadinejad at a rally with a column left blank because of editing by the
censors (
- Internet filtering in Iran (OpenNet Initiative):
- International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

Iran: Escalation of attacks and censorship after elections

ARTICLE 19 calls on the Islamic Republic of Iran immediately to unblock Iranians’ access to international media, to lift bans on local newspapers and websites, and to stop harassing Iranian and foreign journalists in the wake of last Friday’s presidential elections.

The Iranian government is using various methods to block the reporting of events following the presidential election on 12 June, including by censoring and suspending newspapers blocking internet news websites and preventing access to international news media.

There have been widespread public protests in major cities across Iran, after the incumbent candidate, President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, announced a resounding victory over opposition reformist candidates early on Saturday morning.

Staff from several international news organisations, including Belgian, Spanish, Canadian, American, Emirati and Italian newscasters, have had tapes confiscated, been ordered to leave the country, been beaten while covering public protests and even been detained. The BBC English and Persian television and radio services have been interrupted by electronic jamming, apparently from within Iran, which began on Friday and has gradually intensified.

The Iranian print media has been subject to serious censorship. The Kalam-e Sabz newspaper, which supports opposition reformist candidate, Mir-Hossein Mousavi, was not printed on Monday 15 June. The intelligence ministry has also reportedly ordered all newspapers not to report anything which questions the legitimacy of the elections.

The government has censored internet sites operating within and outside Iran too, as part of an ongoing pattern of repression. Over the weekend, civilians began posting coverage and images of the post-election violence on sites such as YouTube and Facebook, filling the vacuum left by the failure of other media to report on this. The government responded by blocking social networking sites on Saturday afternoon, along with the official campaign websites of the reformist political candidates.

Several Iranian journalists have been arrested, disappeared or gone into hiding in the last two days.

SMS messaging was blocked on the eve of the elections and the main mobile telephone network for Iran cut its services in Tehran on Saturday. There have been various reports of phone lines not working for hours after the polls closed.

The national state media (IRIB), the only locally licensed television and radio services available in Iran, has refrained from covering any of the clashes between pro-reform supporters and the police.

ARTICLE 19 notes that the Republic of Iran has ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), which guarantees the right to freedom of expression. The attempts by the Iranian authorities to impose a news blackout on reporting on the election and its aftermath are a clear breach of the right to freedom of expression as protected by the ICCPR. ARTICLE 19 calls on Iran to respect its ICCPR obligations and to stop the censorship by unblocking access to all print, broadcast and online media immediately.


• For more information please contact: Khashayar Karimi, Iran Programme Officer,, or at +44 20 7324 2500.

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