Iranian media crackdown prompts Tweets and blogs
Government tries to cut flow of information, but citizen journalists find ways to fill the gap. One blogger claims: 'Tiananmen + Twitter = Tehran'.
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As protests against Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's declared electoral victory continue in cities across Iran and the Iranian government cracks down on media coverage, Iranians are using Twitter and blogs to spread information about events on the gorund there.
Over the weekend, following the Iranian government's announcement of Mr. Ahmadinejad's proclaimed landslide victory over challenger Mir Hussein Mousavi, protesters flooded the streets of Tehran and other Iranian cities. The Iranian government then moved to shut down foreign reporting, according to niacINsight, the blog of the National Iranian American Council, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization. The NIAC wrote at 4:35 p.m. on Sunday that "NBC and ABC have had their cameras and film confiscated. BBC has been ordered out of the country."
Indeed, a broadcast by John Simpson, of BBC, shows that the foreign press have had to become more discreet in their reporting – much of the video in the broadcast appears to be shot from a camera hidden in a bag. But the video also shows the crowd chasing off a member of the secret police who tried to shut down the BBC's cameras. In a press release, Reporters Without Borders chastised the Iranian government's censorship and called upon the world, and European nations in particular, not to recognize the announced election results.
As a result of the Iranian government's attempts at censorship, much of the best first-hand information out of Iran is coming via the blogosphere. Several bloggers, like Andrew Sullivan of The Atlantic and Nico Pitney of The Huffington Post , have been live-blogging the events of the election.
One blogger of particular note is electronicmaji of Daily Kos, who has compiled photos and news reports on the protests (warning: some of the content is of graphic nature) and notes the parallels between the current protests and those during the Islamic Revolution in 1979. Electronicmaji also cites reports indicating that the actual election results give Mr. Mousavi between 19 and 22 million votes, compared to between 5 and 10 million votes for Ahmadinejad.
The Internet messaging service Twitter also has proven a key source of information about the Iran protests: Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb cites a comment he's seen, "Tiananmen + Twitter = Tehran," highlighting both the similarity between events twenty years ago in China's Tiananmen Square and in Tehran today and the difference that the Internet has made in how the Tehran events have unfolded.
Andrew Sullivan cites several Tweets by students and other protesters as they have come under attack by Iranian police and other security forces. German student Simon Columbus, who writes a blog called i like patterns, has compiled a list of English-language Twitter users in Iran, many of whom seem to be students or protesters.
Likely as a consequence of the online coverage, the Iranian government appears to be blocking their citizens' access to non-government coverage of the election and subsequent protests. BBC's The Editors blog reports that one of the satellites the BBC uses to broadcast its Farsi-language Persian channel to the Middle East is being jammed by interference from Iran.
According to its Twitter feed, Tehran Bureau, an independent Iranian online news organization published in English, was shut down for several hours Sunday. Tehran Bureau has since been able to restore its service.