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Interview with Arash Abadpour about his ‘better internet’ open letter to Rouhani; Iran admits to throttling to ‘preserve calm’; Infographic on pres. candidates and ICT policy; Intelsat to cut off Iran’s HispanTV; Rouhani calls for more open state media
This week's cartoon roundup focuses on hopes for Rouhani's presidency, Ahmadinejad’s departure, and the economic situation in Iran.
Hassan Rouhani’s election was the prominent topic of discussion for Internet users over the past two weeks. Additionally, the death of labor activist Afshin Osanloo, Iran’s qualification for the World Cup, and the falling price of the dollar were also trending.
All eight candidates participating in Iran's eleventh presidential elections commented on ICT issues and cyberspace, unsurprising since the period leading up to the elections saw some of the slowest Internet speeds, crackdowns on VPNs, and warnings from various security bodies about the Internet's ability to stir up seditious sentiment in advance of June 14th. ASL19 and IMP take a look at the candidates and their statements about ICT policy over the course of their campaigns.
Drawing on research previously conducted for the Iran Media Program, blogger, researcher, and engineer Arash Abadpour conducted a survey asking Iranians to describe their version of a “better Internet” in an open letter addressed to president elect Hassan Rouhani. An overwhelming number of responses from Iranians living in Iran referenced concerns regarding Internet speed, access, reliability, and filtering. Read his report here and an interview with him here about his motivations behind this ‘experiment.’
In a press conference organized by Voice and Vision, Iran’s state television and radio organization, President- elect Hassan Rouhani called for more moderation in foreign and domestic policies. He stated a willingness to engage with the west and also called for the necessity of viewing oppression by the Syrian government with a critical eye, despite friendly relations. Mr. Rouhani also appealed for a more open state news media. “The age of monologue media is over; media should be interactive…In a country whose legitimacy is rooted in its people, then there is no fear from free media,” he said.
Minister for Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Hassan Nami announced that the government slowed Internet speeds in the days prior to the presidential election, and that "the reduction of the Internet speed, which some called 'disturbances', was the result of security measures taken to preserve calm in the country during the election period.” Prior to this announcement, authorities had never confirmed a connection between an election and a decrease in Internet speed. However, slowed speed and blocked VPN services were widely reported and Ghanoon Newspaper wrote, “Only happens in Iran; Elections come, internet goes.” Independent researcher Collin Anderson recently published a report detailing the use of Internet throttling as a method of censorship in Iran.
After a Monday meeting between Iranian Minister of Communications and Information Technology Mohammad Hassan Nami and his Chinese counterpart Miao Wei, Nami remarked that Iran and China hold parallel views within the field of Internet technology. Namis stated that “the joint perspective [of Iran and China] can serve as a good basis for more collaboration in this field” and argued that the Chinese government has expressed interested in collaboration as well.
According to Press-TV, Iran’s English language satellite broadcast network, the satellite service provider Intelsat will discontinue its services for Iran state channels. Luxembourg-based Intelsat made this announcement in a letter to the IRIB, explaining that the decision is a result of IRIB Director Ezzatollah Zarghami’s inclusion on the United States’ sanctions list for “aiding state censorship.”
Following this decision by Intelsat, Press-TV and Hispan-TV (Iran’s Spanish language channel) will be taken off air as of July 1, 2013. Press-TV officials called this decision “the West’s war on freedom of expression” and consider it to be a “clear violation of Article 19 of the UDHR.”
In a letter addressed to President-elect Hassan Rouhani, a number of Iranian journalists called for professional security provisions for members of the media.
Signed by 135 Iranian journalists, the letter states:
We, as Iranian journalists, like all other Iranians, have our hearts invested in the development and improvement of the country, and believe that the first step for the realization of this goal is to fully implement the constitution. Part of this is the vindication of our colleagues who in the path of disseminating information and fulfilling their professional duties, have either been imprisoned or forced to leave the country.
The letter’s signatories additionally asked for the end of “illegal detentions for journalists and pressures on their families.” Over recent years, tens of journalists and reporters were detained in Iran and Iran is identified as the “largest prison for journalists in the Middle East” by many human rights organizations.
Director of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace’s (SCC) High Commission for the Improvement of Content Production Mohammad Reza Keshavarzi announced that the Council will work with the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to draft a new bylaw for monitoring the content of mass and promotional text messages. Keshavarzi added that prior to text message monitoring by the Committee Charged with Determining Offensive Content, (CCDOC) the nation had no mechanism to control messages after a user pressed send.
Deputy Press Secretary of the MCIG Mohammad-Jaafar Mohammadzadeh said that the almost 500 foreign journalists who came to Iran for the presidential elections had no complaints, did not face any security issues, were able to travel inside and outside of Tehran freely, and were able to present good coverage of the event. He added that authorities have always been concerned with the way in which Iran is portrayed in the media, and thanked journalists for more realistic coverage than on prior occasions. Mohammadzadeh also mentioned that special arrangements were made to offer journalists high-speed and unfiltered Internet in order to file their stories and that transportation services were also made available to journalists.
Hard-line Fars News Agency published an interview with the U.S. State Department’s Farsi- speaking representative Alan Eyre, only to subsequently remove it from the website. In the interview, Eyre discussed U.S. policy, nuclear negotiations, and the need for the Iranian government to listen to its citizens’ requests for change. Interviews with U.S. officials are extremely rare in Iran state- affiliated media outlets, and Fars News has not commented on the motivation for the initial interview.
Note: The IMP will not have a newsletter the week of July 8 but we will be back July 16.