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Iran Cracks Down on Internet, Press Freedoms as Election Nears

As Iran’s June 14th election approaches, the regime continues to intensify its crackdown on citizens’ Internet access:

Iran is tightening control of the Internet ahead of next month’s presidential election, mindful of violent street protests that social networkers inspired last time around over claims of fraud, users and experts say.

The regime is thought to be particularly targeting social media sites, but the crackdown could signify more:

The Internet crackdown, which the government has deployed during past protests, could be a trial run for unplugging the Internet during the June 14 election, human-rights groups say. It could also be a prelude for switching to the domestic intranet Iran has been building for the past two years, a strategy to cut World Wide Web access.

Local media quoted a Farsi tweet: “It only happens in Iran: the election comes, the Internet goes.”

In April, the opposition website Kaleme reported that Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence summoned the managing editors of the country’s nationwide publications to inform them of the “red lines” of election coverage. Similar language was used by Friday Prayer Leader Kazem Seddiqi in Tehran when he told the crowd that candidates should be aware of the “red lines in the country’s upcoming presidential election.” Seddiqi also pointed out “that any group moving to sow division in the country is committing treason against the nation.”

The ongoing restrictions of free press and freedom of expression are among the reasons that analysts expect the June election to be “the least democratic election” since Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution.

[Photo: Plugimi / Flickr]