Hossein Derakhshan at PostGlobal

Hossein Derakhshan


Iranian-born Hossein "Hoder" Derakhshan is a blogger, journalist, and internet activist. Since 2001, he has been based out of Toronto, Canada, running his award-winning weblog, Editor: Myself, which has been among the most influential blogs in the Persian language. Close.

Hossein Derakhshan


Iranian-born Hossein "Hoder" Derakhshan is a blogger, journalist, and internet activist. more »

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Iran has no policy of blocking English news websites

Tehran, Iran - The Guardian's story on the new wave of censorship was an example of unfair and partial journalism, despite a usually great job that Robert Tait does for the paper in reporting on the nuances of the system in Iran.

First I have to say that the blocking of those websites are removed now. I asked a few friends in Tehran to check nytimes.com, amazon.com, youtube.com, wikipedia.com and even the Israeli newspaper, Haaretz.com. They were using various ISPs such as ParsOnline and Datak and they confirmed on Tuesday (today) that all these websites are accessible.

To be on the safe side, I asked them to check my own blog at hoder.com and also flickr.com which has been filtered for quite a long time. Both were inaccessible -- or filtered.

So obviously Mr. Tait has rushed into reporting on something which easily could have been a mistake or a software glitch. We know that due to the US embargo and other issues, Iran has been forced to develop its own filtering software and these applications have had problems.

There has been reports on them slowing them the system so much it made the whole access impossible. Or previously there have incidents when, similar to the recent problem, many websites were automatically and unintentionally blocked. For instance, PersianBlog and blogger have repeatedly been blocked and unblocked.

So the Guardian should have not rushed into conclusion that this incident shows a policy shift in line with Ahmadinejad's presumed policy of rejecting anything Western. Because that is not really the case. He's been quite pragmatic in a lot of areas. He and his culture minister have previously embraced the blogging phenomenon as something as positive as capable of fulfilling the early promises of the Islamic revolution.

There also has never been a policy to block non-English sources of information on the Internet. So for example, none of the English versions of Israeli newspapers are blocked, where as Radio Israel in Persian is blocked. Or when they filtered BBC Persian a few months ago, they didn't do anything to the English website.

The reason obviously is that the number of people who can read English is so small that the government can easily afford letting them accessible. Because their impact on the public debate is next to zero.

Now, why would a government want to suddenly change such a consistent information policy for no specific reason, while we know that the committee that decided about filtering has a very centralised structure and it's much more predictable and coherent compared to the arbitrary and decentralised structure of the judiciary and its treatment of the pres.

The Guardian is totally unfair to ignoring all these important aspects and rushing into turning a very likely unintended incident into an evidence of a change in a long-established policy.

It's also quite partial in that it doesn't even mention the possibility of a technical problem that has precedent. Mr. Tait cold have talked to an expert and include a quote on this angle just to be on the safe side.

Now, it's interesting that some organizations and publications, such as Reporters Without Borders and Wall Street Journal have not even waited for the story to be confirmed by other credible sources, either from Iran such as IRNA or ISNA or from outside like AP, Reuters or AFP, and then start making their repeated and politically motivated attacks against a sovereign, semi-democratic, popular and independent state such as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

I'll write more about why I've lost my trust in RSF and why, I believe, it has lost its credibility as an impartial watchdog.

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