Posts from December 11, 2003

Iranian president talks about weblogs

Iranian president talks about weblogs
: This is big news. Daily Summit asks President Khatami about weblogs and gets surprising answers. Bravo to Daily Summit for getting these three important questions in:

President mentions weblogs! Asked by Ahmed Reda of Daily Summit who controls internet censorship in Iran, Mr Khatami replied:

“I think there are hardly any countries in the developing world, or in Islamic countries, where you have such expanded ICT networks and ICT use. Of the weblogs that are created and generated – after those in English and French, we are number three.

“There are a lot of internet connections in Iran. All countries have certain reservations about the internet, but they are not about freedom of expression. They are only porn and immoral websites. Even political websites that are openly opposed to the Iranian government, and all other educational and scientific sites, are available to the Iranian people. But the expansion of digital expression should not harm the culture or identity of nations. We need new conventions, while allowing fair use of the internet.

“Of countries that have been very sensitive to the harm these communications can cause, we can use France, as an example. Its example shows we should not sacrifice the great benefit of these communications, but we should pay attention to the harms they can cause. The internet should not harm the fundamental freedoms of people. Within the framework, of law, we believe in Iran we have imposed the minimum restrictions. In other countries there are broader restrictions.”

He says they censor “only” 240 sites on the Internet:

Only 240 sites! Aaron Scullion asked President Khatami : “Will you pledge uncensored access to the internet or publish a list of sites deemed unacceptable?”

The President replied: “The BBC, Voice of America and other American sites will not be censored in Iran. Many things that are contrary to the policies of Iran are available in Iran. Even opposition websites are available. We are exerting greater control over pornographic and immoral websites that are not compatible with Islam. And even some political sites that are very insulting to religion. But we are not censoring criticism. Criticism is OK.

“The numbers are very few – it’s only porn sites. (Asks Minister of ICT for a precise number) Altogether 240 sites, the Minister tells me. The majority are porn sites, not political sites. We hope to have a world where morality will prevail and we will not have to censor any sites.”

They ask him whether he blogs:

Do you blog? After President Khatami mentions the explosion of weblogging in Iran, Daily Summit asked: do you use weblogs, Mr President?

“I do not use weblogs,” the President replied. “But I do not use many good things. My own daughters do not have weblogs but they are very active in using the internet and chat. Our youth and adolescents during high school – and university – are using weblogs very extensively. In universities, there is a lot of access and there are many internet cafes in Iran. Access for youth to the internet is very satisfactory.”

: I blogged this from a restaurant (obnoxious and true) while having lunch with Om Malik and Anil Dash. It was just too good to wait.

I am most eager to hear what Hoder and other Iranian bloggers say about the truth of Iranian censorship and what they think of this.

On the other hand, as I showed this to Anil, he said: “The president of Iran mentions weblogs before the president of America.” Weird world.

: Since there’s some discussion about how Iran is blocking porn sites — but only 240 sites, and that includes political sites, too — then folks wonder just how many porn sites are there on the Internet? 225?

At last week’s MIT Media Lab confab, an IBM guy said they had calculated just how much porn there is on the Internet (tough job but somebody’s gotta do it): One third of the Internet is porn, they said.

The world as a reporter’s backdrop

The world as a reporter’s backdrop
: A Rocky Mountain News reporter happens into the anti-terrorism demonstration in Baghdad, but rather than reporting the event (asking a few questions, passing on a few facts), he uses it only as the backdrop for his impressions of the city: the basic reporter-shows-off genre of news as defined as what happens to the reporter.

BAGHDAD, Iraq – I expected none of this.

We were shot at not even once. Never in the nearly nine hours we have spent walking and driving through the streets of this city did anyone flash as much as a cap pistol at us.

This is not the Baghdad everyone has told us to fear, the one they for months have shown on television at home. Not a single car exploded. There were no dead bodies that needed to be stepped over….

There is an anti-terror rally scheduled in Furdoise Square this morning. We might want to see that, Atheed offers. We climb into the BMW sedan he has borrowed from a friend….

Just up the street are two Bradley Fighting Vehicles. Overhead, two helicopter gunships circle. “They are watching, to protect us,” Atheed tell us.

Hundreds of men have filled the square for the anti-terror rally, which as the day grows longer, becomes apparent is not much more than an Iowa-style political rally.

Leaders of various religious and secular parties alternately take the stand set up beneath the large pedestal from which mobs toppled the statue of Saddam that long-ago spring afternoon.

The throngs of sign-carrying men leap in the air, their hands over their heads, chanting anti-terror slogans, as the leaders at the microphones denounce the insurgents that attack Americans, pledging to fight terror the same way a group of men in Iowa are doing today.

That’s fine as a letter home to mom. But there was news happening and the newsman didn’t get it. [via reader Eric in Denver]

France, the bizarro nation

France, the bizarro nation
: A most bizarre story from France: Faced with hate crimes against religious minorities, the response of the government is not to protect those minorities, but instead to tell them to hide their religion.

Muslim girls in France could be barred from wearing headscarves in schools after an expert commission recommended a ban on “conspicuous” religious signs.

The official commission headed by former minister Bernard Stasi has released its findings on issues relating to religion and the state.

French President Jacques Chirac will announce next week whether he supports the commission’s recommendation.

The ban would also include the Jewish skull-cap and large Christian crosses….

Mr Chirac, who is expected to address the nation next week with his own conclusions, has hinted that he could back a formal ban.

Last week he said France felt “in a certain way under attack as result of the display of ostentatious religious signs, which is totally contrary to its secular tradition”.

He added: “We cannot accept ostentatious signs of religious proselytism, whatever the religion.

Wacky on so many levels. In this country we believe that separation of church and state is about protecting the church and the freedom to believe whatever one wants. In France, separation means hiding religion. Sounds like the land of Lenin and Stalin, not the land of liberty, brotherhood, and equality.

I suggested about a week ago that the appropriate response to attacks against Jewish children in France would be for Chirac to start wearing a yarmulke himself. Instead, he tells the children to take them off. He tells girls to take off their scarves. So wrong.

Islam and media

Islam and media
: At Jay Rosen’s suggestion, I’ve dropped into a session at NYU on Islam and media. I’ll blog if possible.

: Peter Chelkowski, author of “Everyplace is Karbala,” is showing revolutionary Iranian art and he says: “The power of words and images has successfully challenged the military might of an established regime.”

Isn’t that irony as sweet as a pastry: The mullahs overthrew the shah with the power of words and images on paper.

Now Hoder and the popular weblog movement are standing up to the mullahs with the power of words and images on wires.

Iran: The next revolution starts here

Iran: The next revolution starts here
: What would you ask the president of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, about the Internet? Well, here’s your chance to ask.

David Steven, who’s running a blog at the U.N. summit in Geneva, asked a question of the U.S. ambassador on behalf of me yesterday. n

Now he wants to us to give him questions to ask the president of Iran.


One question, Mr. President:

Will you pledge today to assure your citizens the right of unrestricted access to the Internet?

Yes or no.

There is no middleground.

Paint. Corner.

: Hossein Derakhshan (aka Hoder), the Iranian weblog pioneer, has managed to get attention from big media — the BBC online — for the cause of Internet freedom in Iran. Read the story here.

Iranian internet users have been venting their frustration at online censorship on a website devoted to the UN’s digital summit in Geneva.

Hundreds of people have posted complaints online in the hope of reaching key summit delegates, after some web users in Iran found they could no longer access parts of the Google search engine.

The Iranian government’s tight controls force net service providers to block thousands of political and pornographic websites….

Noted Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, now based outside the country, began to receive e-mails from his readers, and the story was soon published on a number of Iranian sites.

A weblog,, picked up the story in advance of the beginning of the UN’s digital summit, and was soon inundated with people trying to make their voice heard.

Mr Derakhshan, who was previously involved in the campaign to free a jailed Iranian blogger, said people want to “grab the attention of delegates and participants in Geneva.”

“The Iranian officials are very defensive over these kind of things”, said Mr Derakshan, “and if there is enough public pressure, they’d definitely change their attitudes.”