Viewsdesk - chasing the global public sphere


Iran17:32, March 1, 2007

While the Iranian’s are trying their best to change the world’s perception of them as a breed of inhuman terrorists by posting heartwarming movies on the internet, depicting a completely different Iran than you would see on Fox News, popular culture in Israel is going another route.

The Eurovision Song Contest is a pretty big deal, and this year Israel’s entry in the competition is a political song, where the band Teapacks sing about the Iranian nuclear program and how Ahmadinejad is going to “Push the button” and destroy Israel. Tasteless? You be the judge:

Read the lyrics here, listen to the song here (windows media). Or see the performance on video here (windows media).

Iran17:12, January 2, 2007

Starting January 1st, Iranian bloggers are expected to register (link in Persian) their blogs with a governmental agency and receive a registration number to put on their websites, my Iranian sources tells me. Apparently, failure to comply within the two months deadline will result in filtering. This has also been reported here before, but there are still a lot of unclear issues.

I wonder how many will actually register, and if this apply also to Iranians outside Iran? Only if they write in Persian? Will they filter everything that is not approved, or did they invent this to have an excuse to censor arbitrarily?

Iran09:05, November 21, 2006

I realized that most days, on this blog, all I talk talk about is the bad stuff that is happening in Iran: an endless stream of posts about filtering, imprisonment and repression. In this post I would like to show you the other side. I’m not a photographer (and I will not quit my day job) but please take a look at this attempt to a photo essay.

censored magazine coverIran is so much more than what you hear on the news and, quite honestly, the country took me by storm. A endlessly rich culture and tolerant and curious people, living closer to us than Fox News would have us believe. It’s the home of millions of people and carries with it an ancient culture that is both beautiful and profound. The real Iran!

Unfortunately, due to the harsh realities of the Iranian society, the most important thing is missing from the pictures: the wonderful people I met and spent time with, people whose hospitality and warmth towards me as a stranger was incomprehensible then and even more surreal now. For their protection, they cannot be associated with me – and it hurts me not to be able to give them proper credit.


Iran09:34, November 18, 2006

The government in Tehran seems to be changing their use of filtering software, or at least there is an increased diversity. According to older data from and Opennet Initiative, the Iranian authorities use SmartFilter – a commercial filtering solution from an American company – to control the citizens’ access to certain websites. My sources suggest that there seem to be other solutions as well, even though SmartFilter may well still exist. Rumors are floating around however, about German solutions, and about more sophisticated Chinese tracking systems. What?s clear is that there seem to be a plethora of solutions used, without any coherent strategy or use of a single point of exit, such is the case in other countries. This should, in theory, mean that the block lists also differ slightly between ISPs?

Below are five screenshots sent to me from within Iran. The sixth and last screenshot was taken by me in May 2006 and is shown for reference.

The images show different block pages, some clearly identifiable as output from other filtering packages than SmartFilter, but since I don’t have access to the source code for these pages, I cannot examine code nor headers. Chances are that it would reveal more information.

(The images have been altered slightly to avoid exposing my sources.)

Datak in Tehran
Block page from Datak (Tehran) Datak is an ISP offering dial-up, ADSL and Wifi/Wimax internet access in Tehran and some of other provinces. Flicker is blocked, as can be seen in the example. Unknown filtering software.

Block page from Parsonline (From When this screen shot was taken, ParsOnline used Websense to filter websites, as disclosed by the page title.

Block page from Sepanta (Tehran) Sepanta is an ISP – not sure about their size or location – and this is their block page. Not sure which filtering software is being used here. (The page you get redirected to is also accessible from outside Iran.)

Block page from Shatel (Tehran) ISP offering dial-up and high-speed access in Tehran, Karaj and Tabriz. Seem to be using the Separ system for filtering. Separ is an Iranian hardware-based product. Switching to this solution was apparently not hassle free for the users, I’ve heard, with hours of downtime.

Block page from a university in southern Iran This block page looks identical to what is reportedly used by the Telecommunications Company of Iran. Said to be based on SmartFilter.

Internet Caf?, May 2006
Block page from Internet café in Tehran, May 2006 This was the block page I saw most often when I was in Iran. (Here is another version of the page, taken in the same café taken just the other day ? still the same.) The Internet Café’s IP resolves to ParsOnline and it’s reasonable to suspect that this is their block page. Why this is different is from the one at blockpage is unclear to me. One is probably newer than the other. Anyone knows?

* * *

Western Companies Chasing Profit?
Looking at the Iranian software market, the first thing that strikes you is that everything is pirated. Everything! The concept buying software is completely and utterly non-existent. Or rather, software is might well be bought, but it’s not the real thing – even though it has the glossy CD-sleeves and plastic wrapping. In any computer store, there is the ubiquitous software shelf with pirated CDs en masse.

This makes me question the outbursts of morality that companies such as SmartFilter receives, when mentioned as the suppliers of filtering software to Iran. Even if they use software from western companies, I sincerely doubt the Iranian regime is paying license fees for them. (And, if producing filtering software is immoral to begin with is another question – but also an entirely different discussion.)

Iran05:23, November 13, 2006

It’s been a couple of weeks since the Iranian authorities put a 128 kbps speed limit on ADSL-connections, and the Iranians have started to organize in protest of the decision. A friend of mine in Iran sent me two links to sites that protest against the decision: here and here.

My friend, however, doesn’t dare to sign the petition himself, since he’s afraid that the protest will get noticed by the government ? and that it could potentially get the signers in trouble. He writes:

I didn’t sign the petition nor joined the sites sponsors simply because I don’t want to act politically. Maybe you say it’s not political, but believe me, here every thing can be turned to political protest.

I really don’t blame him for thinking like that. I would probably do the same, I think. That said, this question on what issues that are considered as being a political act is really interesting, from my point of view.

Censorship and Iran03:26, October 24, 2006

Reports have been coming, in the recent days, that the Iranian regime has capped all privately owned Internet connections to the ridiculously slow 128 kbps. Most of the reports – at least the ones that I have read – focus entirely on the fact that it’s a virtual ban of broadband content such as videos from YouTube and music downloads. I agree that this is a problem, but I would also like to add another structural problem that I feel is potentially worse than missing out on the latest viral advertisements – however funny they may be. I do not believe the only reason for this ban is to stop the influx of western culture. I think it is also (another) way of shortening the leash for freedom of speech inside Iran.

The Internet is a wonderful medium, and one I personally believe is excellent for the promotion of democracy, simply because it is inherently symmetrical. What I mean by that is that those who can receive can also transmit. This argument is well known though the debate of Net Neutrality in the United States (not so much in Europe). Anyone can set up a server and make just about anything available to a global audience. The Iranian imposed limit, however, effectively removes the opportunity to do so. You cannot run much of a web server on 128 kbps ADSL. Not if your intention is to get read. Also, you can’t set up TOR-nodes to hide behind with only that amount of bandwidth to spend.

The regime probably knows that this ban force people to use one of its authorized servers if they want to publish a blog or a forum. And these servers are so much easier to control.

My point is that democracy builds on participation. If you can’t, for example, organize a strike or discuss political issues with your extended network, there will be no democracy. Regardless whether or not you can download the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy in less than a minute. And I think it is imperative that the decentralized structure of the Internet is allowed to shape the future too. Even in Iran.

Censorship and Iran14:03, September 12, 2006

I brought some magazines with me when I went back to Sweden from Iran. The thing was that I was very surprised to begin with when I found copies of The Economist in the window of a newsstand near the Tehran University in Enqelab Square.

censored magazine coverSince hotel rooms are boring, I picked up a couple of magazines – they even carried older issues. Went back and started reading. It was not until the second time I saw one of the black slabs of ink that I realized that the magazines were indeed censored! This sparked my interest, and I went back several times in the following days, and basically cleared out the store of foreign magazines. (It turned out that the shop owner had some uncensored issues of fashion magazines under the counter – which he very subtly offered me to purchase – and when I said that I’d rather buy the censored ones his jaw fell to the floor.)

I bought three different magazines, just one of some and many of others: The Economist, National Geographic and Wallpaper. I guess they were chosen primarily since I normally buy them.

Anyway, I posted one of the pictures here a couple of month ago, and I’ve finally found time (ehh, not really, but I did it anyway) to do it right. One thing I can’t do, it to provide you with the originals for comparison, and some things – particularly the cartoons – are hard to say anything about. If you have the uncensored issues of the magazines below, and feel like helping out, take a picture of them (or scan them) and mail them to me and I?ll post them.

Please note that the images can be clicked if you want a higher res image. (To get a copy of the original images: mail me.)

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The Economist, May 13 2006, pp6-7. This is a cartoon of George Bush and some unmentionable person. My guess is Ahmadinejad or Khamenei, since it apparently was so important to cover it up. They used both ink and a white sticker.

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The Economist, Apr 23 2005, pp30-31. Advertisement for Portugal. Apparently featuring a woman in swimwear.

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The Economist, Jul 16 2005, Survey of America pp8-9. This girl shows too much skin, and her shoulders were covered.

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The Economist, May 6 2006, pp62-63. The Economist reports that Indonesia is creating new laws to get tough on pornography. Here, the word Playboy has been censored, as well as the backs of the magazine read by the people in the background.

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The Economist, May 6 2006, Cover. The cover of the magazine that also had the previous picture in it. This cover is not censored, but included here to point out that the entire magazine is full of articles that are extremely critical to the regime. Leaders and op-ed’s that say that the Iranian regime is outright dangerous. Yet, that is not censored. Not one word of it. It’s all there. But the word “Playboy” is a no-go.

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The Economist, Apr 16 2005, pp24-25. “Damn those Portuguese! They should know how to cover themselves up. Let’s do it for them!”

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The Economist, Apr 16 2005, pp78-79. Two censored images in the Books and Arts section. One of Billie Holiday’s shoulders and the other is some kind of drawing. I’m very curious as to what lies beneath here. It must be of considerable danger, considering the dual use of ink and sticker.

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The Economist, Apr 29 2006, pp42-43. Article about the shopping mall Debenhams, illustrated with a scantly clad woman.

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The Economist, Apr 15 2006, Cover. This is an issue focusing on the conflict in Israel. Nothing censored on the cover – I just wanted to frame the coming three spreads.

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The Economist, Apr 15 2006, pp8-9. A cartoon again: probably Ahmadinejad.

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The Economist, Apr 15 2006, pp26-27. Advertisement for LG. The woman is wearing a jogging dress.

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The Economist, Apr 15 2006, pp40-41. Cartoon of Uncle Sam with a sword. My best guess is that his opponent in this picture is Khamenei – probably also equipped with a sword.

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The Economist, Jan 15 2005, pp94-95. Samsung advertisement, with the woman wearing a tank top.

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The Economist, Oct 9 2004, pp88-89. Marilyn Monroe is in the photo behind Richard Avedon. The article is an obituary for the famous portrait photographer.

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The Economist, Apr 22 2006, pp44-45. Advertisement for LG. The woman is wearing a jogging dress running clothes.

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National Geographic, Feb 2006, Cover. This issue of NG is about this phenomenon called love. The cover is a photo of a couple in embrace, not really kissing, but almost. On the uncensored cover, that is.

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National Geographic, Feb 2006, Editor’s section. Under the image, the text says “Marilyn Monroe and Clark Gable on the set of The Misfits.” Apparently they were up to no good.

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National Geographic, Feb 2006, pp32-33. The same picture that was on the cover – only slightly larger.

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National Geographic, Feb 2006, pp36-37. Another spread in the feature article about love. The woman – probably wearing a bikini – is censored, but the guys are not.

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National Geographic, Feb 2006, pp108-109. These images are part of a story on life in the Alps, where the NG photographers attend a teen charity fashion show.

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National Geographic, Feb 2006, pp120-121. A girl in Florida wearing too little. Tank top? Bikini?

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National Geographic, Feb 2006, pp122-123. Continuing the love-story, a knee is casually exposed. And swiftly removed.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Louis Vitton advertisement. They redesigned the dress. The black is not supposed to be there.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Dior advertisement.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Tretorn advertisement.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Versace advertisement.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Tod’s advertisement. Mind the knee.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. René Lezard advertisement.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. This one is interesting, because it seems to be a slipup. This bathing suit should have been censored, I would think?

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Technogym advertisement.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Fashion piece. Considering the publication, the woman in the tub, might be naked. Ironically, the setting is the Middle-East, thus the women in chador in the background.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Fashion piece cont’d. Look at the women on the right.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Another fashion piece.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Another fashion piece cont’d.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. This girl had a tank top that was too revealing it seems.

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Wallpaper, Sept 2005. Hospes Hotels advertisement.

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This is part of the wrapping that the magazines came in. Nashravaran Journalistic Institute is the organization (agency?) that handles that censorship. They also stamp all magazines with a stamp upon inspection. It’s mind-boggling to think of the people whose work it is to sit there with a giant felt-tip pen and cover up skin all day long.

* * *

Practices of Iranian Censorship
One of the more interesting things with all this, I think, is how words are left uncensored, but images are not. The only word that was explicitly censored was “Playboy”, in spite of the articles being full of things that must be considered western propaganda.

From a westerner’s point-of-view, the censorship can be described in terms of political and/or sexual. The political censorship is the cartoons of the religious and worldly leaders, and the sexual being primarily the female body and some of its attributes. It’s important, however, to remember that women are not censored to the standard that is expected in the real world: in the Iranian society the hair is supposed to be veiled from a strangers gaze – in these images its left untouched and visible. Thus, it can be argued that there is a degree of tolerance that goes beyond what is normally considered acceptable and that censors target the Iranian equivalent of hard-core pornography.

The Iranian censorship is better than other forms of censorship, in that it’s done in the open. The black ink is there for all to see. No pages that “disappeared”, but the evidence of interference is there. That way, Iranians at least know that they’re missing out and can act accordingly.

Iranian Censorship in Relation to the West
The images of censorship above should be considered both in relation to other repressive regimes, but also on the practices in western newspapers. It’s tempting to just come to the conclusion that they are not free – while “we” are.

I’d like to question this, just for the fun of it. For example, National Geographic often shows dual standards in the way it portrays women from different cultures. While they would never print a full-page picture of a topless 19 year-old Californian girl, they have no problems doing to with a native African woman. This practice has been called colonial and is, in a way, also censorship – although not made with black ink.

My point is not to defend Iranian censorship in any way. But we, as westerners, should also be aware that to some extent all societies censor to defend what they consider being the outer limits of decency. Another example is my own country. Sweden is no different – here politicians are often arguing that measures should be taken to “reduce the sexualization of the public sphere”, meaning that laws should be passed to put clothes on women in advertisements. I ask myself, how is that different?

* * *

On a Brazilian site someone has been so helpful as to find the originals for some of the advertisements and present them side-by-side in a nice flip-book kind of way.

Iran23:20, September 10, 2006

I went to the Museum of Modern Art here in Stockholm today, and all I could think about was that the museum should make an exhibition together with the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art (semi-working website here). Some of the pieces I saw in Tehran were truly fantastic, and together with a lecturer on the Iranian art sphere, I believe it would be a great and interesting event. Hopefully it could also help to change the perception of Iran in the eyes of the Swedes.

Okay, so any ideas on how I make it happen?

Iran23:55, September 7, 2006

Global Voices, the excellent blog project from Harvard, published an interview with me today. I talk about my field research and my experiences from going to Iran. Nothing new really, but perhaps it’s got a more personal touch than I allow myself to have in this space. If you haven’t been to Global Voices go there and stay awhile. It’s really a great initiative.

I also should mention that Farid Pouya, made the interview, helped me greatly at the beginning of the project and he deserve due credit. Thank you!

Iran01:22, June 18, 2006

Satellite dish in Imam Square, Esfahan, IranOfficially, owning a satellite dish in Iran is illegal but despite the occasional raid, the government seems to be quite tolerant to it. Though, I must admit I was surprised when ? even at Imam Square (Naghsh-i Jahan Square), in the center of Esfahan – a dish was sitting there in plain view. I thought the owners were expected to be discrete and mount them on the roofs – out of view from the streets.

One thing people often ask is if Iranian?s have access to foreign television, and if so what channels they can receive. The short answer is that access is greater in Iran than anywhere else I?ve ever been! An Iranian friend showed me that he had 1,106 channels in his home! All European and American channels you can think of ? I guess it?s mostly a matter of people being able to understand the foreign languages.

PS. On this day I also express my sincere condolences to the people of Iran for the terrible loss in the World Cup. I?m so sorry, guys.

EDIT (19th of June): Bigger image, with more of the surroundings, here.

Iran11:35, June 16, 2006

I?ve been interviewed about my research trip to Iran by the Swedish online-newspaper Unfortunately for any English readers, the article is in Swedish only.

The article is found here: Bloggrevolution erövrar Iran.

Digital Culture and Iran12:09, June 7, 2006

In cities all over the world, graffiti have become natural part of the cityscape. Tehran is not different. Most tags and slogans (and the more elaborate paintings) are officially sanctioned, relaying the messages and opinions of the government.

Some are not sanctioned at all.

writing on a wall

This wall (larger image) was photographed in Darakeh just north of Tehran a few weeks ago. I saw the same tag down-town as well, but was never given a good opportunity to take a picture of it.

The Persian text translates to “political disclosing” or “political divulging”. Unfortunately the site no longer exists. I wonder who was so brave as to create an oppositional blog and then draw attention to it by spraying the address all over the capital.

If anything, I think the picture shows how important blogs are for the Iranian public sphere. How desperately people want to be read and listened to, and what length some are willing to go to achieve it.

Censorship and Iran21:59, May 30, 2006

One thing that surprised me with Iran was that it was not particularly hard to get over foreign magazines. Just visit a specialized newsagent, and the stacks were pretty much the same as anywhere; Times, Newsweek and the ubiquitous The Economist.

censored magazine coverYou have to remember that I brought very little ? if any ? literature with me, in order to travel light, so the first time I saw English-language magazines I bought pretty much everything I could get my hands on. (Hotel rooms are boring at night, you know.) All was fine, until I came back and started reading them.

They were all censored. And not in any subtle way ? but with black felt-tip pens and white stickers! The interesting thing is that an article can be very critical towards Iranian policies in writing, but pictures are apperently much more sensitive. An issue of the The Economist, for example, featured an extremely opinionated leader on Iran?s nuclear policies. It was not touched. The caricature cartoon of Khamenei, however, was a big black hole.

As was all images of women with a little less clothes than prescribed.

This sparked my interest, and the next day I went on a quest to find more magazines. I bought a whole bunch, from newspapers and viewspapers to Wallpaper and National Geographic.

The latter also had the most prominent censorship of them all ? as shown in the image in this post (the untouched cover in the lower right corner).

I will make a more methodical study of the 30-or-so magazines I brought back to Sweden, and return with more scientific results on the censorship.

Iran13:52, May 29, 2006

I’ve returned from my research trip to Iran, where I’ve been on a month-long research trip, as part of writing my master thesis on Iranian blogs and the public sphere.

This trip also explains that this blog have been so eerily quiet for some time. I decided not to blog about this project — and I even went as far as removing the posts I’d already made on the subject. I apologize for any confusion. This was of course due to security concerns, both my own and for that of my interviewees. I preferred to stay under the radar, and better be safe than sorry.

Anyway, I have had a fantastic time in Iran and I return with a great material. I?ve met with so many enthusiastic and inspiring bloggers in Tehran and Esfahan. I wish I could tell you some of the stories I’ve heard…

I’ll be posting some comments and observations as I start to dig more in to my material. Watch this space!

Iran17:14, February 27, 2006

My interest in Iran, and how citizen participation – primarily through electronic media – influence the public sphere has prompted me to focus on this in my master thesis in media and communication studies.

Thanks to a generous travel grant from The Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (SIDA), I will be able to travel to Iran and conduct the field studies necessary. I leave in the beginning of April, and plan to say in Iran for about eight weeks before returning to Sweden. During that time, I will meet, listen to and interview as many bloggers as I can.

The main research area is how the organization of the civil society is affected by the increased participation offered by the Internet and blogs. The background is that a well-organized civil society is often suggested to be an absolute necessity in the phases of transition towards a democratic rule.

Other research questions include: How can the Iranian public sphere be classified, and what characteristics does it have? What are the implications of political participation in Iran regarding self-censorship etcetera? How does state-sanctioned censorship affect the public sphere, and how – if at all – can the online censorship be circumvented?

I intend to be very transparent during this research, and I appreciate any feedback. More details will be posted shortly, watch this space!

Naturally, I’m interested in all contacts I can possibly get in Iran. If you can help me, don’t hesitate to drop me an email (jonathan -at- qem -dot- se).

Iran12:57, February 1, 2006

Blogger-in-exile, Hossein “Hoder” Derakhshan, is coming to Sweden and will hold an open lecture on the Iranian blogosphere and political life in Iran. Just show up, if you’re interested — and you should be!

Date and time: 8th of February 2006, 1000-1200 CET
Location: JMK-salen, Institutionen för Journalistik, Medier och Kommunikation, Karlavägen 104, Stockholm.

Censorship and Iran03:38, January 14, 2006

Laura Secor, reporter with The New Yorker, has written a lengthy piece about the situation in Iran. It attempts to explain the current political developments in the country, and should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the recent chicken-race when it comes to Iran’s atom program.

It’s a really nice read, and she interviews both public and not-so-public people, in her – seemingly genuine – quest to explain the apparent quirkiness of another culture. The result is an honest account, if maybe somewhat normative at the egdes. Hossein Derakhshan, aka Hoder – exile Iranian ?berblogger, gives the article his blessing and calls it the deepest and most insightful piece by an American he’s ever read. That I cannot judge, I’ll just have to take his word for it.

The article describes the political and public sphere, and how participation sometimes is frowned upon – to say the least. She quotes: “We have freedom of expression – just not freedom after expression”. Particularly interesting was the section about blogger Roozbeh Mirebrahimi, who was jailed last fall for writing material on his blog that stirred up emotions among the rulers. The story has been told before, from another perspective, but the account is more detailed.

Censorship and Free Speech and Iran23:57, February 22, 2005

Arash Sigarchi, 28, was earlier today sentenced to 14 years of prison, according to The Committee to Protect Bloggers. His crime? Well, apparently he updated a blog with information about more than 20 Internet journalists who had been jailed by the Iranian government.

BBC quotes a spokesperson for Amnesty International commented: “Just as the internet is a tool for freedom, so it is being used as an excuse for repression. […] It is also shocking to realise that in the communications age just expressing support for an internet activist is enough to land people in jail.”

My question: Where does this fit in? Propaganda?

Free Speech and Iran23:54, January 23, 2005

Hoder, an Iranian blogger based in Canada, reported yesterday about how American companies are shutting down Iranian websites – amongst them blogs.

The latest site to be shut down, with very short notice, is the Iranians Students News Agency (ISNA) who’ve been given 48 hours by their host, The Planet, to remove their content before getting shot from the sky.

The idea is that, according to the US State Department, the Iranian government supports international terrorism. This is also why many US-based registrars, deny Iranians to register Internet domains.

This seems like an utterly stupid practice, if you ask me. There are many forces at work within the Iranian society in favour of changing the system. Cutting people off from the Internet, one of the most promising ways to encourage debate and free exchange of ideas we’ve seen in the history of mankind, can only be contraproductive.

So, all you bloggers in Iran – if you ever need a host in another country, consider Sweden. I promise you that I can have you set up (and probably even sponsored) in a matter of hours.

Iran16:37, November 22, 2004

Sometimes the Swedish system surprises even the Swedes. Most often it’s negative, as the horribly long queues for getting that life-saving operation, but once in a while it’s something positive that takes you by surprise. Something trivial, yet refreshing. This is a story about such an occurrence.

Yesterday was a beautiful winters day in Stockholm. Clear skies, a few degrees minus (yes, Celsius, that is) and a few decimetres of snow can make even me leave my desk for a Sunday in the open fresh air.

So, I went to visit my brother who has a seemingly endless supply of energy, and who had prior to my arrival made lobster soup, hot chocolate and waffles ready for us to bring on our winter picnic. He’s also got, more importantly for this story, a two-year-old daughter, Tyra, and the mission of the day was to go out to small hill nearby (that’s got to be like the alps for someone who’s hardly more than three-apples-tall), in order to try out her new sledge, bought the day before and never yet used.

As we dragged her new, red sledge up and down the hill (trying desperately not to get run-over by the hoards of ten-year old hooligans in overalls), we noticed an abundance of sledges lying around the foot of the hill. It turned out that they were owned by the municipal kindergarten nearby, and that anyone could lend them for a ride downhill.

As strange as that is, what’s even more strange is that I, being a Swede and nurtured with this behaviour since I was a toddler, never really reflected on how extraordinary it really is to allow this. It was not until I got home I realized that somebody’s got to be there to take the sledges out in the morning, and to take them on the evening – and that the government pays that person to do it. And there I am – taking it for granted. And so did the kids I’m sure. Especially those who don’t have a sledge of their own, I suspect.

Well, here I am now, telling you that though I may have opinions on how this country is run from time to time, yesterday the welfare state helped to make my afternoon a pretty wonderful one. Thank you.