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Liberals And Conservatives Clash Over Iran’s Internet Control

(Pic courtesy AP)


The conservative hardliners and the more liberal moderates in Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s government are divided over how closed they can keep the internet. The differences are part of a larger issue of balancing the distribution of political power between the liberal and conservative wings of the regime.
Rowhani and his supporters favour selective dismantling of restrictions to the internet and to information in general. The conservatives however believe it will clash with Islamic values.

“We cannot restrict the advance of [such technology] under the pretext of protecting Islamic values,” Ali Jannati, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance was quoted by The Washington Post as observing at a meeting with Iran’s chamber of commerce. The Post said he had described Iran’s post-Revolution attempts at controlling the information, including the internet, as “ridiculous.”
Among the restrictions are government licensing of newspapers, books and film as well as content control. The Post said that moves to issue licences to reporters however had resulted in 400 journalists writing to the government in protest.
The tug-of-war between the conservatives and liberals is also seen in the announcement some weeks ago that Iran was going to set up its own internet which it described as “clean internet” and for which it had enlisted China’s help.
In an article on February 12, in The US News and World Report, Mark Eades said that Iran had announced recently that it had received Chinese help “to implement its closed ‘National Information Network’ or ‘clean Internet.'”    
Praising China for its “four decades of good experiences in the application development services for information technology,” Iran’s head of internet and communication technology Nasarollah Jahangard said. “We hope to use these experiences.”
The words of Jannati and Jahangard delineate the stark difference in outlook between the conservatives and liberals. 

Ninety Percent Americans Approve Of Internet’s Impact


As the Web celebrates its 25thanniversary in March, the Pew Research Centre has published the first of four reports on the Web at 25 in the US. While Pew has tracked the explosive growth in the adoption of the internet from 1995, this new report looks at the level of internet penetration today and Americans’ responses to its impact on their lives.
The report found that 87% Americans use the internet with “near-saturation usage among those living in households earning $75,000 or more (99%), young adults ages 18-29 (97%), and those with college degrees (97%). Fully 68% of adults connect to the internet with mobile devices like smartphones or tablet computers.”

The answer as to the overall impact of the internet was “90% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for them personally and only 6% say it has been a bad thing, while 3% volunteer that it has been some of both.”
Asked as to its social impact, “76% of internet users say the internet has been a good thing for society, while 15% say it has been a bad thing and 8% say it has been equally good and bad,” the report observed.
The results in this report, a collaborative effort by Lee Rainie and Susannah Fox of the Pew Research Internet Project, are based on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International from January 9-12, 2014, among a sample of 1,006 adults, age 18 and older.
Click hereto access the report.

CPJ’s Publication On Attacks On Journalists And The Media


The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has published the 2014 edition of Attacks on the Press: Journalism on the World’s Front Lines. The 240-page study contains both country reports with concise accounts on assaults on media freedom and the freedom of information, and thematic studies on impunity, surveillance, media and markets, censorship, global development, the internet, security and nations at risk.
The thematic studies are the following. Impunity: When Journalists Are Killed, Witnesses May Be Next by Elisabeth Witchel; surveillance: The NSA Puts Journalists under a Cloud of Suspicion by Geoff King; media and markets: Without Stronger Transparency, More Financial Crises Loom by Michael J. Casey; censorship: Would-Be Repressors Brandish ‘Ethics’ as Justification by Jean-Paul Marthoz: global development: Putting Press Freedom at the Heart of Anti-Poverty Efforts by Rob Mahoney; the internet: How the United States’ Spying Strengthens China’s Hand by Joel Simon; security: Finding the Courage to Cover Sexual Violenceby Frank Smyth; nations at risk: CPJ Risk List: Where Press Freedom Suffered by Maya Taal.
“Every day, journalists around the world face incredible risks – from imprisonment and assassination to simply just ‘disappearing’ – all for the ethical practice of their profession. Caught between wars and uprisings and corrupt police and drug cartels, as well as increasingly oppressive censorship laws, they find themselves in some of the most dangerous situations imaginable,” says CPJ.
More Information About this Book

Stifling Media Could Affect Turkey’s European Integration, Alliance With US – Freedom House

Turkish Police fire water cannon at protests against internet bill (CPJ)


As Turkey continues the crackdown on free speech by targeting journalists and media organisations, as well as stifling internet freedom through legislative amendments, the New York-based Freedom House published, Monday, a report on curbs on media freedom over the past year, but especially following the corruption scandal involving Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

Democracy in Crisis: Corruption, Media and Power in Turkey says controlling free debate within the country is not only “further alienating citizens and could potentially threaten the country’s stability,” but “could also put at risk Turkey’s integration with Europe and its strong alliance with the United States.”
“The crisis in Turkey’s democracy is not a future problem,” said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House and a co-author of the report. “The media face tremendous pressure from the government, and the government now has widened its attacks to other institutions.”
The corruption scandal unleashed a new wave of protests in which media organisations and journalists were targeted. “New anti-government demonstrations in connect with a major corruption scandal in late December saw more police violence. A dozen journalists were injured by police while covering the protests. The Turkish Journalists’ Union (TGS), which said journalists’ equipment was also destroyed, has demanded a judicial investigation,” said the Paris-based Reporters without Borders (RSF).
On January 17, eight TV stations were issued a warning by the government that they were violating “presumption of innocence” because of their disclosures about the corruption scandal that allegedly involves senior government politicians. “Shortly after the first arrests of high-level suspects on 17 December, the eight TV stations broadcast images of bundles of foreign currency and the shoeboxes allegedly used to store bribes – details that were widely reported in the rest of the Turkish media,” said RSF.
Meanwhile, triggered by the same embarrassment, the Turkish parliament was scheduled to vote on a new Bill on February 3 that would censor further already restrictive internet freedom in the country. The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said the amendments to Law 5651, “would allow the government to block individual URLs without prior judicial review, mandate Internet data retention for periods of up to two years, and consolidate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into a single association, among other changes.”
Describing the alarming web of censorship contemplated in the amendments Geoffrey King, CPJ’s internet advocacy coordinator said, “[a]s Turkey’s Alternative Informatics Association member Ahmet Sabancı told Index on Censorship, URL blocking would require the government to rely on deep packet inspection, a particularly intrusive form of online surveillance, to help ensure the effectiveness of its new approach.”
The Freedom House report, cataloguing the ever-growing restriction on the media, including wiretapping journalists covering national security stories, referred to “The government is also threatening the separation of powers by putting the judiciary, including criminal investigations, under direct control of the Ministry of Justice. The crisis of democracy in Turkey is not a future problem—it is right here, right now.”
Click hereto read the Freedom House Report