Reporters Without Borders condemns the reinforcement of Iran’s system of Internet filtering and blocking. Use of the leading VPN censorship circumvention tools such as Kerio and OpenVPN has been blocked since 4 May, making it very difficult for Iranians to access an unfiltered Internet.
The blocking is being compounded by arrests of netizens such as Ali Ghazali, the editor of the Baztab Emrooz news website, who has been held for the past three days.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has signed many international conventions, belongs to the International Telecommunication Union, UNESCO and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, and is one of the most active countries in the World Summit on the Information Society, which will hold its next international forum in Geneva from 13 to 17 May,” Reporters Without Borders said.
“Like all other parties to these conventions, Iran is supposed to respect its international obligations, which include allowing unrestricted Internet access. Iran’s leaders should match their actions to their words, instead of imposing a digital apartheid on the Iranian people while giving the international community undertakings to respect the free flow of information.
“On the eve of candidate registration for the 14 June presidential elections, the regime is no longer content to just exercise constant control over all of the country’s newspapers, jam the TV stations that broadcast by satellite to Iran and block thousands of websites.
“It henceforth intends to disconnect the Internet and thereby deprive Iranians of a vital source of news and information. The media isolation in which the regime wants to plunge Iran falls far short of providing the conditions for free and democratic elections.”
Baztab Emrooz (www.baztab.net/), a website critical of the Ahmadinejad administration that had already been blocked four times in the past three years, has been inaccessible again since 29 April, the day after it published an article claiming that President Ahmadinejad had an explosive secret recording.
The article said: “Mahmoud Ahmadinejad reportedly possesses a recording in which a senior regime official announces to him, the day after the 22 June 2009 election, that the results were rigged so as to increase the number of votes for him from 16 to 24 million.”
The website added: “If this recording really exists, the president is in a position to threaten [Supreme Leader) Ali Khamenei’s faction and to put pressure on the Council of Guardians of the Constitution so that the candidacy of his preferred successor, Esfandiar Rahim Mashai, is accepted.”
The president’s website reacted to the article by issuing a denial and calling for legal proceedings against Baztab Emrooz. Ghazali was arrested on the Tehran prosecutor’s orders on 4 May on a charge of “publishing false information with a view to upsetting public opinion,” and is being held in Tehran’s Evin prison.
Reporters Without Borders also condemns grave violations of the rights of prisoners of conscience. Ten of the inmates of Evin prison’s Section 350, including the journalists Said Madani, Siamak Ghadery and Abolfazal Abedini Nasar, were stripped of all their rights and were placed in isolation cells in Security Section 240 on 21 April.
They were accused of protesting against deputy prison director Javad Momeni’s interference in their internal management of the dormitories. Momeni, who has a reputation for mistreating prisoners, wanted to force inmates to replace Madani as their delegate.
Madani has repeatedly criticized the high price and poor quality of goods sold to Evin’s inmates, and the complicity of prison officials in the trafficking that goes on inside Evin.