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

5. Conclusion

Despite the Islamic Republic’s continual efforts to increase the costs, Iranians have enthusiastically adopted the Internet. They continue to navigate through the maze of laws restricting expression. They find ways around the regime’s efforts to alter and control the Web through the use of proxy servers to gain access to blocked sites and anonymizer proxy tools to avoid being traced online. They even sit in prison and undergo interrogations. Many have paid the heavy price of leaving their homeland in order to express themselves freely. Some have paid with their lives.

However, the regime’s severe restrictions on expression impoverish public dialogue and rob Iranian society of the capacity to develop legitimate public opinion. In its very first session in 1946, the UN General Assembly identified freedom of expression as “the touchstone of all the freedoms to which the United Nations is consecrated,” because “understanding and cooperation among nations are impossible without an alert and sound world opinion which, in turn, is wholly dependant on freedom of information.”373

The Majlis should repeal the most repressive articles of the Press Law and the Islamic Penal Code including Article 609, which makes it a crime to insult almost any government employee, and amend other articles and laws to make them less vague and less susceptible to abusive interpretation. The ministries in charge of restricting access to the Internet through filtration or blocking should clearly define what triggers censorship, and only engage in filtration or blocking of websites and blogs when it is necessary under Article 19, paragraph 3 of the ICCPR. The Judiciary should refrain from expansively interpreting laws limiting freedom of expression. Finally, it should prosecute public officials under Article 570 of the Penal Code for abusing the rights of the people guaranteed under Iran’s Constitution, including the right to see a warrant when arrested, the right to counsel, and the right to be free from torture.374

[373]G.A. Res. 59(I), (Dec. 19, 1946).
[374]Article 578 of the Islamic Penal Code of 1996 provides that “if any of the juridical or non-juridical authorities or employees inflicts corporal harm and torment upon an accused in forcing him to confess,” he shall, in addition to being subject to qisas (retribution) or payment of blood money, be sentenced to a term of six months to three years in prison. In addition, superiors who order such acts are clearly liable:“When the accused dies as a result of corporal harm and torment, the perpetrator shall be subject to the penalty for homicide; the person ordering the corporal harm and torment shall be punished for ordering an act of homicide” and “[i]f somebody orders in this respect, only the person who has issued the order shall be subject to the said imprisonment.”

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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