Home | English | Publications | Reports | Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Iran's Response to the Internet

Ctrl+Alt+Delete: Iran's Response to the Internet

The broad discretionary powers of the PSB to grant and revoke licenses, and refer cases for prosecution, violate Article 19 of the ICCPR. Under the Press Law, the PSB may disqualify or refer an applicant based on such vague offenses as publishing articles prejudicial to Islamic codes, promoting subjects that might damage the foundation of the Islamic Republic, encouraging and instigating individuals and groups to act against the dignity and interests of the regime, insulting Islam and its sanctities, offending the Leader of the Revolution or recognized religious authorities, and publishing statements against the Constitution.107 This discretionary power to grant or revoke licenses without procedures for effective review is a major impediment to the free exercise of expression.108

The vague content prohibitions also violate international law.109 The extensive list of prohibited subjects severely quashes expression that has no connection to pornography, national security or any other potentially legitimate reason to limit expression. Under the Press Law, most political philosophies, large portions of Iranian law and many important political leaders are prohibited topics. Moreover, even if these draconian restrictions were permissible, they are so vague as to be meaningless and are therefore unenforceable. They fail to provide adequate notice to Iranian citizens as to what subjects are off-limits, thereby promoting arbitrary arrests and prosecutions.

The registration requirement is particularly restrictive when applied to bloggers. Though the HRC has not taken up a case on the registration of bloggers, it has ruled on the limits of registration in what could be an analogous practice: leafleting. In Laptsevich v. Belarus, the HRC ruled that an individual handing out leaflets in a public square should not be forced to register and that such a requirement was not legitimate under Article 19 paragraph 3.110 Similarly, blogs are usually published by individuals to express personal opinions and beliefs. The broad registration requirement creates an obstacle that is not necessary but severely restricts the freedom of bloggers to express their views, as well as the rights of others to receive their communications.

2.1.2. The Islamic Penal Code

The regime has also relied on the Penal Code of the Islamic Republic to severely repress expression on the Internet. Criminal sanctions for criticism of and opposition to the regime, real and imagined, are allencompassing. Bloggers and cyber-journalists have been charged and convicted of serious crimes including endangering national security,111 insulting Islam’s holy figures or the Supreme Leader,112 propaganda against the regime,113 membership in groups dedicated to the overthrow of the regime,114 and spying for foreign governments.115 In addition, provisions in the Penal Code outlaw criticism of state employees, whether elected or appointed, in high or low office.116 The Code also criminalizes libel and defamation.117

[107]Press Law, supra note 95, art. 6.
[108]Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee: Lesotho, U.N. Doc CCPR/C/79/Add.106 ¶ 23 (1999) available at:http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(Symbol)/CCPR.C.79.Add.106.En?Opendocument.
[109]See, e.g., Press Law, supra note 95, art. 2, note. The note states: “Each publication should at least enforce one of the above goals, and such a goal must in no way be in conflict with the other goals specified above or with the principles of the Islamic Republic.”
[110]Vladimir Petrovich Laptsevich v. Belarus, Communication No. 780/1997, U.N. Doc. CCPR/C/68/D/780/1997 ¶ 8.1 (2000)
[111]Iran’s Penal Code addresses crimes against national security. Iran Penal Code, supra note 63, arts. 498-512. It includes article 498 (mandating two to three years’ imprisonment for conspiring with another (or others) to disrupt the national security of the nation), article 499 (mandating three months to five years’ imprisonment for being a member of a group identified in article 498, unless unaware of the group’s objectives), and article 500 (mandating three months’ to a year imprisonment for propagandizing against the Islamic Republic, or in favor of a group or organization who acts against the Islamic Republic). The national security provisions also address acts that constitute espionage, see, e.g., id. arts. 501-02, 510, and instigating others to disrupt the nation’s security. See, e.g., arts. 504, 512. For the purposes of the Penal Code’s national security provisions, a “group” is defined as a gathering of two or more persons. Id. arts. 610-611.
[112]Iran’s Penal Code criminalizes insults against Islam’s holy figures (i.e., the twelve Imams, the great prophets and their kin, etc). If the insults are directed at the Prophet Muhammad, the crime is punishable by death. Otherwise the individual is subject to one to five years’ imprisonment. Id. art. 513. Insulting Khomeini or the Supreme Leader is punishable by six months’ to two years’ imprisonment. Id. art. 514.
[113]Id. art. 500 (“Anyone who engages, in any manner, in propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran or does so on behalf of dissident groups or organizations is condemned to imprisonment for a period of three months to one year.”)
[114]Id. art. 499.
[115]Id. arts. 501-02.
[116]Id. art. 609.
[117]See, e.g., id. art. 700 (“Anyone who satirizes another person, either orally or in writing, through poetry or prose (or publishes such satire) will be subject to imprisonment from one to six months.”)

« 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 »
  • Email to a friend Email to a friend
  • Print version Print version
  • Plain text Plain text

Tagged as:

Free Speech, Right to Protest, Cyber Journalism, Torture, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment, Punishment, Due Process, Right to an Attorney, Free Association, Political Freedom, Equality Before the Law, Discrimination