Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Repression Live: Iran's Crackdown Seen Worldwide; Hotline Established to Aid Journalists in Danger

The BBC said today that Iran has widened electronic jamming of its services, as the country's Revolutionary Guard ordered domestic websites and blogs to remove any material that might "create tension" amid post-election unrest. Reporters are not allowed to cover unauthorised gatherings or move around freely in Tehran - but there are no controls over what they can write or say, according to the BBC.

Both the BBC's World News and Persian TV channels are now being jammed by "ground-based interference" in what one senior corporation insider told was akin to "electronic warfare".

Iranian authorities also blocked access to Yahoo Messenger early today as the country intensified its crackdown on all means of communication following Friday's controversial presidential poll.

Menawhile, Reporters sans frontières said this afternoon in Paris that two more journalists have been arrested.

Saide Lylaz, a business reporter for the newspaper Sarmayeh, who had been very critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s policies, is arrested at his home in Tehran. His wife says she does not know where he has been taken.

It is reported that Mohamad Atryanfar, the publisher of several newspapers including Hamshary, Shargh and Shahrvand Emrouz, was arrested on 15 June and was taken to the security wing of Evin prison.

This brings the total number of Iranian journalists arrested to at least 13.

Reporters sans frontières announced it has established a hotline for Iranian journalists in danger. SOS Presse, a phone hotline for journalists - (33) 1 4777-7414 - is open every day round the clock and, with the help of American Express, a Reporters sans frontières official can be quickly reached. Collect/reverse-charge calls can be made.

Late last night, Aldolfatah Soltani, a lawyer who represents many imprisoned journalists and who is a member of the Human Rights Defenders Centre, was arrested on the orders of the Tehran revolutionary court and is probably taken to the security wing at Tehran’s Evin prison. Ten or so opposition activists, politicians and civil society figures have been arrested in the course of the day in Tehran and three other major cities – Tabriz, Ispahan, and Shiraz.

The Guardian also reports these details:

BBC's Persian website has also been blocked by filters, although the corporation said people were finding a way to unblock them manually and that use of the site had been "massive". It was receiving five videos a minute from people within Iran.

Iran's Revolutionary Guard, an elite body answering to the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said through the state news service that Iranian websites and bloggers must remove any materials that "create tension", or else they would face legal action.

This is the first public statement from what is the country's most powerful military force since the crisis erupted.

Iranian reformist websites, as well as blogs and Western social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, have been vital conduits for Iranians to inform the world about protests over the bitterly contested declaration of election victory for the hardline president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

At least 20 websites affiliated to the defeated reformist candidate, Mir Hussein Mousavi, have been blocked, although some users can still update their profiles by using proxy sites.

"Before this we could bypass filtering by using proxy websites, the links for which were distributed daily among friends by email. But now the Iranian communication ministry has also begun to tackle proxy websites too," one Iranian student said.

"But there is still a small number of people who update their Facebook and Twitter profiles by using special anti-filtering programmes installed on their PC rather than regular proxy websites. The problem is that many people don't know how to use this software."

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