first_img News News June 11, 2021 Find out more Iran is stepping up pressure on journalists, including foreign journalists, in run-up to election Receive email alerts IranMiddle East – North Africa March 18, 2021 Find out more June 9, 2021 Find out more Follow the news on Iran Iran: Press freedom violations recounted in real time January 2020 News LINKS:News sites:- (in Persian)- (in Persian)- (in Persian)- (in Persian)- (in Persian) RSF_en Privately-owned ISPs began operating timidly in 1994 in the shadow of the big government-controlled ISP, Data Communication Company of Iran (DCI), run by the intelligence ministry. Internet fans were heartened when the reformist Mohammad Khatami became president in 1997. With the shutdown of nearly 100 newspapers since April 2000, the reformists set up websites such as Emrooz, Rouydad and Alliran. Women’s sites, such as Zanan Iran and Zan, were also founded. In 2002, Iranians, especially young people and women, became enthusiastic about weblogs, personal sites where they can get round the censors by using a false name. This passion for the Internet (with at least 1,500 cybercafés in Teheran alone) quickly scared the regime, which took steps to control it.Privately-owned ISPs must get permission to operate from the ministries of intelligence and Islamic guidance and use filters on website viewing and e-mail messages. Each user has to sign a statement promising not to look at “non-Islamic” sites.Owners of cybercafés, which are very popular with young people, students and intellectuals, especially in the capital, ask their customers to disconnect if they catch them looking at “non-Islamic” sites. Anti-government sites are based abroad and are much visited by Iranians who manage to get around the censorship.Measures to stifle the InternetThe regime stepped up its control of cybercafés in May 2001, closing 400 of them in Teheran. Some have since reopened, but in November that year, the Supreme Council of the Cultural Revolution, chaired by President Khatami but dominated by hardliners, ordered all privately-owned ISPs to shut down or put themselves under government control. Intelligence minister Ali Yunessi, on 2 January 2003, denounced the “underground war” he said was being waged through websites that “put out rumours and disinformation about all government bodies and their officials.” A commission of officials from the culture and intelligence ministries and the state-run radio and TV was set up that month to compile a list of news sites considered “illegal.” It was to be handed to the posts and telecommunications ministry, which would pass it on to ISPs, who would block access to them. The list is thought to contain between 100 and 300 websites, most of them sources of news.In early May, the country’s prosecutor-general, Abdolnabi Namazi, announced a new commission to deal with offences committed online. He said people who posted material on sites created in Iran “must respect the Constitution and the press law or else risk being prosecuted. Until we have a law about Internet offences,” he said, “courts can use the press law,” which provides for heavy prison sentences. The commission’s main job is to draft an Internet law.Deputy posts and telecommunications minister Massud Davari-Nejad said in May that the ministry had moved to block access to “immoral sites and political sites that insult the country’s political and religious leaders.” So when people try to access an “illegal” site, they are cautioned that “on orders from the posts and telecommunications ministry, visiting this site is not permitted.” Measures were also taken against ISPs. Five privately-owned ones in the northern city of Tabriz were shut down in early May because they had not installed filters against banned sites. Most of the ISPs still operating there were government-controlled. At least seven ISPs were also closed down in Teheran for the same reasons. The hardliners were not the only ones trying to control the Internet. In May, two reformist figures, government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh and posts and telecommunications minister Ahmad Motamedi, warned ISPs to apply the new rules and said the system of filters was quite legal.Webmasters and Internet users arrestedJavad Tavaf, editor of the news website Rangin Kaman, which for a year had been criticising the Guide of the Islamic Revolution, Ali Khamenei, and was very popular, was arrested at his home on 16 January 2003 by justice ministry officials. He was freed two days later.Mohamed Mohsen Sazegara, editor of the news site Alliran, was arrested on 18 February at his home by plainclothes state security agents and his house and office searched and a large amount of written material seized. A week earlier, he had posted an article on his website calling for a reform of the Constitution. He also wrote that the wishes of Iranians had been “hijacked by six religious figures on the Council of Guardians,” a body controlled by hardliners and appointed by Khamenei, which supervises elections and ratifies laws. He was freed a few days later. Nearly 70 schoolchildren were arrested in Teheran in March for using the Internet to organise dates and forbidden sexual relations. They were freed a few days later.Sina Motallebi, a journalist with the reformist daily Hayat-é-No and editor of the website Rooznegar, was arrested on 20 April after being summoned the previous day by the Teheran police’s morality section, Adareh Amaken, which is close to the intelligence services. After the closure of the paper in January, he had revived the website and used it to defend one of the paper’s journalists, Alireza Eshraghi, who had been arrested on 11 January. The site, which especially defends imprisoned journalists, had angered some legal officials and also a number of reformists by criticising them for their silence about the arrests of journalists. He was freed on 12 May.The Internet also used as a propaganda toolThe hardliners’ distrust of the Internet does not stop them using it to spread their own propaganda, with sites such as and The religious city of Qom also turns out several thousand students each year trained in computers and the Internet who are supposed to use their knowledge to serve the country and further Islam. June 18, 2003 – Updated on January 20, 2016 Iran Organisation IranMiddle East – North Africa Help by sharing this information to go further With the regime’s closure of nearly 100 newspapers since April 2000, the Internet has become the means for journalists to speak out freely and call for more freedoms and reforms in the country. Both the regime’s hardliners and the reformers, horrified by the new tool, have strengthened their control of the Internet. Several people running websites have been arrested since January 2003, along with Internet users. News Call for Iranian New Year pardons for Iran’s 21 imprisoned journalists Women’s sites- www.zan.orglast_img