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[liberationtech] Iran holds its own blogging competition

Cyrus Farivar cfarivar at
Fri Apr 1 03:02:01 PDT 2011

My latest for DW.



Iran holds its own blogging competition

A new pro-government Iranian blogging competition recently came to a
close. Many Iran watchers see this new promotion of blogging as an
example of a double standard set by the Iranian government.

Perhaps in response to Deutsche Welle's blog awards, known as the
BOBs, Iran has organized its own blogging competition, called "The
Face of '89," in reference to the Persian calendar year 1389, which
just on March 20.

However, the rules of the competition stated that blogs that are
blocked within the country - typically those that criticize the
Iranian government - are not eligible to participate.

"We are living in Iran and all Iranians are required to the internal
laws of this country," the site said.

One well-known Iranian blogger, Sanam Dolatshahi, who now works for
BBC Persian and writes from the United Kingdom under the name Khorshid
Khanoom (Lady Sun), said that this move to highlight pro-regime
bloggers is not surprising.

"The pro-government blogosphere has proved to be active and important
not only in criticizing the opposition, but also in criticizing
conservatives whenever they are in disagreement with the Supreme
Leader," she wrote in an e-mail to Deutsche Welle, referring to Iran's
ultimate political and religious authority, Ayatollah Ali
Khamenei.Mahmoud Ahmadinejad

"DW's competition [does not represent] the conservative pro-government
blogosphere, so it is not surprising to see [that Iranian government
supporters] have established a competition of their own," she added.

The winner of the competition, which was announced on March 20, was
Omid Hosseini, a well-known pro-government blogger, who supports the
conservative president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Hosseini's most recent post, for example, was a warning to Shia in
Bahrain, who are currently protesting the Sunni government in their
country, to stay away from American support.

Blogging in Iran began a decade ago

Blogging first came to Iran in 2001, when Hossein Derakhshan, a
Canadian-Iranian, published a guide outlining how Iranians could
publish online in their own language.

His own blog, "Editor: Myself," became an influential blog in Iran,
and encouraged others to follow his lead. Derakhshan served as a BOBs
jury member in 2005 and 2006, but was later arrested not long after
his return to Iran in November 2008.

In 2005, an Iranian-British author, Nasrin Alavi, wrote a book called
"We Are Iran," which translated and cited a large number of Iranian
pro-reform blogs.

While Iran's opposition and Green Movement has received a lot of
attention for its speaking out against the government on blogs and
other types of social media, conservative, Islamic and nationalistic
blogs remain a prominent force on the Iranian Internet.

In fact, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad launched his own blog
in four languages - English, French, Arabic and Persian - in 2006. In
December 2008, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, announced that
it would be unleashing an army of 10,000 pro-government blogs.

Connection to Iranian government remains unclear

However, it is not completely clear exactly who organized this Iranian
blogging competition, beyond that the site lists some Iranian blogging
hosts, like MihanBlog and ParsiBlog, in addition to, a
conservative news website.

"After the 2009 election, the Iranian authorities understood the
effect of blogs and before that they didn't know blogs," said Amin
Sabeti, an Iranian blogger who now lives in the United Kingdom, and a
BOBs nominee in this year's Best Persian Blog category, in an e-mail
sent to Deutsche Welle.

He added that the competition is hosted by a pro-government news
websites,, however, there is no indication that it has
official support from the Iranian government.

Iranian government wants to control its message online

In recent years, the Iranian government has been co-opting many of the
online tools that they themselves abhor. In the wake of the June 2009
elections, for example, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei,
began his own Twitter account in both Persian and English.

"The Iranian government has a double standard for social networks,"
Sabeti added. "They always talk TV about how these social networks
like Facebook, Twitter, etc. are part of CIA, MI6 or Mossad, but at
the same time they use them. It means they understand power of these
tools but they [want people to be afraid] to use them."

Other Iran watchers agreed with this sentiment.

"I have noticed there are two contradictory positions here: the
Iranian government is ramping up the censorship around Green websites
and blogs and to portals that are used to access info about the
opposition in Iran and imprisoning bloggers," wrote Ramin Jahanbegloo,
an Iranian philosopher and professor of political science at the
University of Toronto, in an e-mail to Deutsche Welle.

"On the other hand, the Iranian government is organizing a festival of
bloggers who accept to collaborate with the regime. That is to say,
the Iranian government is not sitting back passively and letting the
Internet be an open, unrestricted forum. The Iranian government is
militarizing the Internet by developing long term strategies to
control information online. This is a new cyber strategy in Iran."

Author: Cyrus Farivar
Editor: Nathan Witkop


| | © Deutsche Welle.

Cyrus Farivar
"suh-ROOS FAR-ih-var"

Freelance technology journalist and radio producer

Author, "The Internet of Elsewhere"

DE: +49 163 763 3108 (m)
US: +1 510 394 5485 (m)

Twitter/Skype: cfarivar

"Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the Internet."
cfarivar at

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