Iran Jails More Journalists and Blocks Web Sites
By NAZILA FATHI
New York Times
November 8, 2004
TEHRAN, Nov. 7 - Iran has continued its crackdown on
journalists, with two arrests in the past week, and has
moved against pro-democracy Web sites, blocking hundreds of
sites in recent months and making several arrests.
Mahboubeh Abbas-Gholizadeh, the editor of the magazine
Farzaneh and an advocate of expanded rights for women, was
arrested Nov. 1 after she returned from London, where she
had attended the European Social Forum.
Fereshteh Ghazi, a journalist for the daily newspaper
Etemad, who also writes about women's issues, was arrested
four days earlier after she was summoned to court to answer
questions, said her husband, Ahmad Begloo.
Ms. Ghazi wrote a letter in support of a woman who had been
sentenced to death for killing a senior security official
whom the woman accused of trying to rape her.
As part of its crackdown, the government has blocked
hundreds of political sites and Web logs. Three major
pro-democracy Web sites that support President Mohammad
Khatami were blocked in August.
A university in Orumieh in northwestern Iran shut down its
Internet lab, contending that students had repeatedly
browsed on indecent Web sites.
The crackdown suggests that hard-liners are determined to
curtail freedom in cyberspace. Many rights advocates had
turned to the Internet after the judiciary shut down more
than 100 pro-democracy newspapers and journals in recent
The number of Internet users in Iran has soared in the last
four years, to 4.8 million from 250,000. As many as 100,000
Web logs operate, and some of them are political.
The move to block Web sites has the support of a senior
cleric, Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi, who declared in
September in the hard-line daily newspaper Kayhan that Web
sites should be blocked if they "insult sacred concepts of
Islam, the Prophet and Imams," or "publish harmful and
deviated beliefs to promote atheism or promote sinister
When the most recent wave of arrests began in September,
authorities arrested the father of one Web technician, Sina
Motallebi, who has taken refuge in the Netherlands. Mr.
Motallebi had his own Web log and helped run one of the
political Web sites. The father, Saeed Motalebi, was held
for 11 days and then released.
"It seems that they do not want to deal with political
figures who are behind the Internet sites and are willing
to pay a price for what they are doing," said Alireza
Alavitabar, a political scientist who is involved in the
Emooz Web site.
"Instead they want to deprive the Web sites of their staff
and the capability to run them," he said.
Hanif Mazroui, the son of a former member of Parliament,
Rajabali Mazroui, was arrested two months ago. He was a
computer technician who worked for the daily Vaghayeh
Etefaghieh, which was shut down. He has had no job since
Omid Memarian, who was arrested Oct. 10, was a journalist
and a well-known figure among private aid groups. He had
his own Web log in both Persian and English.
Mr. Memarian tried to attend a conference on Iranian civil
society in New York before his arrest. He had obtained a
visa, but in Frankfurt, American authorities refused to
allow him to board his flight, saying that he was on a
"no-fly" list, Human Rights Watch reported. He was arrested
a few days after his return to Tehran.
"They want to find out how the Web sites are run,
intimidate these young people and put an end to this
medium," said Rajabali Mazroui, Hanif Mazroui's father.
The judiciary is drafting a law that will define
cybercrimes. The chief of the judiciary, Ayatollah Mahmoud
Shahroudi, has said the law will define the punishment for
"anyone who disseminates information aimed at disturbing
the public mind through computer systems."
It is not clear where the arrested journalists and
technicians are being held. People who have spoken to their
families have not said what the charges against them are.
However, the judiciary spokesman, Jamal Karimirad, said
last month that they would be tried on charges of "acting
against national security, disturbing the public mind and