At the Geneva UN digital summit, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami claimed that only 240 sites are banned:
- He said the ban only applies to sites that are incompatible with Islam, and a government official added that “all political sites are free”.
Online censorship in Iran became a big issue at the summit after hundreds of Iranians flooded a website covering the event with complaints about restricted access.
‘Criticism is OK’
The web has become an important alternative method of communication in Iran, with the authorities often imposing heavy penalties on any net service providers that fail to block access to their list of restricted websites.
More than 10,000 sites are banned in Iran, according to reports.
….”We are exerting greater control over pornographic and immoral websites that are not compatible with Islam”, President Khatami said.
“But we are not censoring criticism. Criticism is OK.
“Even political websites that are openly opposed to the Iranian Government … are available to the Iranian people.”
President Khatami added that Western broadcasters, such as the BBC, would not be blocked in Iran.
….Iran’s minister for information technology, Ahmad Motamedi, added that there was “no punishment defined” for people publishing material the government did not agree with, despite the detention of Sina Motallebi, an Iranian blogger and journalist, earlier in 2003.
Dr Motamedi first insisted he knew nothing of the story, and then said the writer “has been arrested but not in relation to weblogs.”
The minister offered an example, “If somebody is a weblog writer, and kills somebody, should they not be arrested?”
President Khatami also spoke of the popularity of weblogs in his country, saying “I do not use weblogs – but I do not use many good things.
“Our youth and adolescents during high school, and university, are using weblogs very extensively. Access for youth to the internet is very satisfactory.”
He added that, after English and French, more weblogs were written in Persian than any other language.
….Speaking to journalists, President Khatami added, “democracy runs in tandem with freedom of expression, but this does not mean that everything goes.
“Freedom of expression and freedom of thought are the preconditions of a democratic society. But freedom does not mean chaos”. [BBC]
I am inclined to believe the 10,000 figure – we are talking about Iran, and by the way Mo, freedom actually DOES mean chaos, at least as you would define it.