Police batons online: Iran is mobilizing against oppositional web activities


Published in “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” (NZZ, Switzerland) on November 14, 2009

The police in Iran is forming a special commission to trace crimes on the internet. The commission is supposed to prevent crimes such as “fraud, libel, and spreading lies”.


Internet cafe in Tehran: The Ayatollah is watching. Picture from 2003. (Picture: Reuters)

(ap) This was reported by Iranian newspapers on Saturday. The reports quoted police commander Merhdad Omidi saying that given the spread of web access and increasing numbers of internet users, the police is forming a special commission to pursue crimes like “fraud, libel, and spreading lies”.

The phrase “libel and spreading lies” is a standard accusation used by the Iranian Judiciary against the opposition. Since the opposition is barely mentioned in the state-run media, it has resorted to the internet.

Omidi explicitly said that the twelve members of the commission will “intervene in case of political issues on the internet should a crime be constituted.” The commission will be subordinated to the public prosecution office.

After the protests following the disputed presidential election in June, most oppositional web sites have been banned by Iranian authorities. In many cases, opposition members set up new web sites on the same day.

The Iranian TV and radio broadcasting is subject to direct supervision by the spiritual leader Ali Khamenei. From time to time, newspapers are reprimanded not to publish articles that support the opposition.


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