A Strange Kind of Diligence
Making sure that they dot the i’s and cross the t’s, Iran’s rulers have gotten a head start on the traditional bout of election year oppression:
Iran appears to be taking measures to tighten online censorship ahead of its presidential vote. In recent days, a long list of online activities has been designated as criminal, including calling for an election boycott, organizing sit-ins or protests, and insulting presidential candidates.
Simultaneously, reports by Iran’s Fars and ISNA news agencies say that linking to Facebook, Twitter, and other websites that are blocked in Iran, or even promoting blocked websites, has also become a crime.
Iran is already one of the world’s harshest online censors. The regime bans tens of thousands of websites it considers immoral or a threat to national security, including news websites and social-media sites.
The new measures, if enforced, would put increased pressure on people who use the web or social media as platforms for online activism.
Last week, the U.S. government imposed sanctions that target FATA, Iran’s cyberpolice, which was formed in 2009 and have hacked into e-mail accounts related to political action, deleted antigovernment blogs, and arrested bloggers.
Several activists and bloggers have been jailed in recent years for online activism, including for Facebook posts. In November, blogger Sattar Beheshti died in custody after being arrested by the cybercrimes unit.
Another manifestation of the regime’s diligence is its resolute desire to lay waste to the Iranian economy. You might think that sanctions and inflation might cause the regime to reconsider the policies that led to the imposition of sanctions and the onset of inflation. You would be wrong; the regime is determined to compound Iran’s economic woes by killing off exports of one of Iran’s most popular products.
It would be nice if Iran’s leaders devoted their monomaniacal energies to actually bettering the lives of Iranians instead of destroying the quality of life in the country. But prudence, intelligence and a respect for human rights is too much to ask for from this set of “leaders.”