On air: Iran, bloggers and you

Today we’ll look at the Iranian blogosphere with contributors live from Tehran. Iran has over 65,000 bloggers and it’s not all politics on their agenda. Iranian bloggers talk about the arts, cinema, women’s issues, women’s sport and pop music. There’s is even an online dating scene.

At a time when the government is struggling to control what Iran’s bloggers can and cannot say the Islamic Republic’s cyber community fights to maintain contact with the world.

While researching this programme, we were struck by just how many of Iran’s bloggers live in a completely different world from the government. Once in the while, however, the government reminds the blogosphere whose really in charge. Reports published on a number of the more political blogs claim that Iranian police have just arrested Hossein Derkhshan, Iran’s so-called blogfather.


Egyptian bloggers also continue to struggle; 20 year old blogger Mohamed Adel who ,runs ‘Meit’ blog, was arrested last month. Adel’s house was surrounded by forty soldiers, special police forces and three police vans who broke into his home, searched his house and confiscated books and CDs.

But Egyptian blogger Tarek Amr argues that the Egyptian blogosphere is super-saturated with doom and gloom and calls on bloggers for more positive mews.

In Lebanon Wadih Tueni, head of new technologies for the Lebanese daily An-Nahar.says that in the Arab world bloggers enjoy much more freedom than journalist but have still to gain credibility. He says
At the moment, there really isn’t any competition for the primary reason of credibility. A newspaper has a history, a name, a reputation.

And as Cuba celebrates the 50th anniversary of its revolution this New Year’s Day, the island’s Communist government tightens it’s grips on bloggers pushing for more freedom.

Our correspondent in Tehran, Jon Leyne, will be heading to an internet café to speak to some of Iran’s bloggers. We’ll also be speaking to some of the country’s expatriate community of bloggers, as well as other listeners and internet-users in countries around the world, asking whether blogging is really a force for change or merely a self-indulgent hobby? Do governments mainly turn a blind eye because they know blogging makes nothing happen?

30 Responses to “On air: Iran, bloggers and you”

  1. 1 Roberto
    December 15, 2008 at 11:36

    At the moment, there really isn’t any competition for the primary reason of credibility. A newspaper has a history, a name, a reputation.

    ——– This history of the media is mixed and tied in with big business and politics, both of which have plentiful histories of corruption and illegalities.

    Now, claim that newspapers have a reputation a bit disingenous in that should be plural as in reputations within their market. No different than a person in his community. Some will think highly of him, and others not so much as would be the case with any newspaper.

    I doubt few places have more “blogs” than the US. In general they are so bountiful and so thoroughly useless because most are complete nonsense, more piddling streams of conciousness than reasonable discussion or debate. A good case can be made for them being on the level of mental pollution of the world.

    A tolitarian government or otherwise dictator could never allow some of the nonsense claimed on the typical American blog. Most societies in the world are still somewhat traditional and these thoughts are destructive of traditional culture so the strong armed governments have to crack down and restrict bloggers to keep the order.

  2. December 15, 2008 at 12:02

    What Are You Saying? Where Are You Going? Who Are You Seeing?
    TEHRAN – It gets tedious after a while. The same old routine over and over again! Be a good boy, pray at dawn, midday and dusk! Mumble your charms and spells! Keep together, because that’s how we will prevail!
    Cinemas, very few! Disco, you must be joking! Party, watch out, we may be raided! Thirty years after and the Republic still can’t get it together. No social life! No cultural life! No leisure!
    Plato may be dead but Athens is alive! Yeh, I wouldn’t blame them. Start talking about freedom, socializing and relationships, people will think you’re mad!
    A so-called middle class has emerged, mostly from the bazaar and mostly through guile and thrift. They thrive on sweat shops and slave labour, swoon and fawn on the establishment; praise the straight and narrow. The public can see through them and scoffs at them, but they couldn’t care twopence. They’ve got the money! They call the shots!
    Is change on the horizon? Can we learn to respect youngsters? Are we going to give them breathing space? You don’t live twice. The ordeal of the younger generation will haunt them throughout life. Goebbels treated youngsters better. Are we set for a dose of fascism? Anything would be better than the bleak, dreary and absolute tyranny we have now.

  3. December 15, 2008 at 13:59

    Salaam my dearest brother Akbar in Tehran… Kindly take a look at my Iraq, and be careful of what you wish ! :-)… As for blogging in Iraq, as an “infant” Iraqi blogger, I can say that Iraqi bloggers in general do enjoy a RELATIVE freedom to talk about many issues and stuff (but certainly not everything) they wanna shed the light on… The real problem is that our writings in general do not have a real influence or a power of true change… Iraqi officials don’t care at all about what we write… But we must write anyway, hoping that one day someone will listen to us and pay some attention to the issues we shed the light on, Inshallah… With my love… Yours forever, Lubna in Baghdad…

  4. December 15, 2008 at 15:11

    James from Kenya here asking
    The perception the world has of Iran is a country run by Ayatollahs where it would be hard to live in as a secular. How do you handle the aspect of religion regimental versus your freedom of expression.

  5. 5 Nadeem
    December 15, 2008 at 15:13

    When media including BBC describes now-a-days Iran, it reports negative.

    Are we building a case against Iran in the name of freedom by reporting suppression every where in Iran?

    Why can’t we leave Iran alone and let it resolve its own issues or we only qualify societies with westernized life style to be peaceful nations.

  6. 6 M.Hamid
    December 15, 2008 at 15:15

    Journalist in Iran are under great pressure by the govt. So blogging is the only way to inform the public about the truth.

  7. 7 Dan
    December 15, 2008 at 15:29

    If there is any lesson to be learned it is that one must watch who is controlling them.
    In the US in 2000 people started jumping up & down screaming “W” and soon mob mentality took over and we ended up with Bush.
    In Iran the Islamic dictators did the same thing to gain support to overthrow the Shah. Western media went along but are totally silent now as you are under the thumb of Shia Muslim oppression.
    As the next wave of “revolution” that will eventually sweep thru Iran, watch who is actually in control.
    It is too bad that Iranians cannot simply decapitate the oppressive Muslim control and return to civilian rule.
    As for the blogs, I think it is the natural right of a free people to complain. Those complaints is what over time keeps the ship of state running a true course.

  8. December 15, 2008 at 16:54

    Hi Lubna
    Thku so much.
    I do so hope Iraq will revive and prosper. I have so many friends over there.
    There is a breeze of change in the region. You obviously feel it and so do we.
    The problem of blogging in this region is so important since much of our historical legacy is in written form.
    Someon is bound to hear sooner or later and act.
    Hi Dan
    You are so right.
    I am also fed up with radical views of sectarian prelates. We are dangerously near idolatry. It’s either Hoss, Hass, Fathi or Sister Mary who was one of the ring-leaders in the takeover of the US Embassy in 1979. She has become Florence Nightingale overnight.
    I though the shoe throwing incident and Bush in Baghdad quite strange. They want to preserve the shoes in a museum; I thought that was the privilege of dictators.
    I feel sorry for him, but Robert Gates is still there. Keep your fingers crossed.

  9. December 15, 2008 at 16:57

    Blogging is still a dangerous area as many bloggers were arrested and jailed for the content of their publications. There were cases in the Arab world, mainly in Morocco, Saudi Arabia and Egypt where bloggers were arrested for their ideas. The bloggers had to spend long periods in jail. The “exception” is in Morocco where a blogger Erragi ( the only blogger to have been arrested) was arrested and ten days he was released. Even though, his arrest was seen by reporters sans frontiers as an attack on free speech.

    The Iranians, as well as many people in countries where there are restrictions on the expressions of freedom, find blogging as a means to make their cases.

    1-I would like to know if there were cases of bloggers’ arrest in Iran and if the Iranians exercise self-censorship not to be in trouble with their religious authorities.

    2- Are there internet sites that are blocked in Iran and which the bloggers like to browse as a basis for the input in their blogs?

    3- How popular is blogging in Iran and what category of the Iranian population is more involved in blogging?

    4- Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has set up his own blog of his own. How popular is it in Iran?

  10. 10 VictorK
    December 15, 2008 at 17:01

    “”The majority of blogs focus on social matters, art topics, personal diaries, poems, and commentary on topics ranging from arts to cinema and music,” said Dr Aqili.”

    A nation of blogging teen girls? Might as well be, if Dr Aqili’s assessment is right.

    Heavy self-censorship seems to be the rule amongst Iranian bloggers. Why are the authorities worried?

    Trust the BBC to fly the flag for the politics of ‘change.’ So, ‘hard line conservatives’ control the media in Iran. Fine. But when did the BBC last refer to the ‘extreme left’ controlling the media and blogosphere in Cuba? In a free country there’s nothing wrong with blogging as a ‘self-indulgent hobby,’ and in an unfree one it will take more courage and activity than is needed to blog about poems and cinema to effect any kind of change. Let the Iranian bloggers speak for themselves, don’t force them to speak to BBC values of enlightenment, youth, and love of change (follow the BBC news link).

  11. 11 Roy, Washington DC
    December 15, 2008 at 17:33

    Do Iranian bloggers feel that government censorship impacts their credibility, and do they believe that their comments will effect change over time?

  12. 12 roebert
    December 15, 2008 at 17:35

    One question for your Iranian callers:

    Would you rather live in Iran with all its problems and restrictions, or would you prefer to be living in the sort of ‘free’ society that exists in the US and Europe, with all its decadence and freedom to be whatever you want to be?

  13. 13 Syed Hasan Turab
    December 15, 2008 at 17:48

    Iranian nation is struggling with change since 1900 century, this oil rich nation is struggling with western culture & western financial rip off strategy since Islamic REvolution.
    I believe each & every nation have a right to choose from avalable market.
    By way of critising Iranian Democracy & stinky expectation’s from revolutionary Govt may not resovle any western self created issues will create more problem’s for world peace.
    No one can claim sole proprietorship of knowledge, education & skill, this is why any sangtion’s against Iran may be understand wrong.
    A society transform by itself & have a right to vote for change, as Iran have very nominal diversity compairing to USA & ballet power will resolve the change issue.

  14. 14 Archibald in Oregon
    December 15, 2008 at 18:17

    Do the people of Iran want a change in their country or is it just western projection?
    Is it a common sentiment amongst the general public that the west is the oppressor or is it a collective safety mechanism to avoid standing out in dissent? Does the current Iranian gov’t truly represent the people?

  15. 15 Jonathan
    December 15, 2008 at 19:06

    I had to chuckle at the Lebanese journalist who spoke of the “credibility” of Middle Eastern newspapers. I know what he’s saying, but the reputation of newspapers in the Mideast for veracity is pretty bad, as I understand it. They are mostly either official organs of governments, or heavily censored and fast and loose with the facts. I’d be interested to hear the bloggers’ opinions on this.

    San Francisco

  16. 16 Anon
    December 15, 2008 at 19:12

    How much American readership do Iranian blogs get?

  17. 17 Anthony
    December 15, 2008 at 19:15

    Can you ask if these people would like to see Israel “blow off the face of the earth”? I’m wondering if this is over exaggerated by the U.S. media.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  18. 18 Chidi (from Minneapolis)
    December 15, 2008 at 19:26

    What do Iranians think of black people in general. I have always wanted to visit Iran but I am unaware of what Iranians truly think of black people as a whole. Will I stick out like a sore thumb or does Iran have a black community.

  19. 19 Steve
    December 15, 2008 at 19:36

    @ Anthony

    I don’t know the difference between Persian or Arabic, the symbol looks a bit like Hezbollah (so Lebanon) but the filename says it’s Iran, and it claims to do what everyone says is a mistranslation.

  20. 20 Steve
    December 15, 2008 at 19:42

    They say they will stop stoning, so does that mean that people will not be executed for religious crimes, or will they just be executed by other methods?

  21. 21 Emilie Robinson
    December 15, 2008 at 19:43

    How do most iranians access the internet?
    What age groups have access to the internet in Iran, and who interacts mostly with the blogs?

  22. 22 Trent West
    December 15, 2008 at 19:49

    My question to your guests is – From my understanding Iran has a very young populus, do you think sometime in the future they will be able to elect a leader that the rest of the world can work with or is the religious arm too powerful?

  23. December 15, 2008 at 19:53

    Hi Messrs Ros and Jon Leyn
    TEHRAN – Thank you for a wonderful session and encouragement for Iranian bloggers.
    They are the new generation that will make it happen. People are sitting up and listening.
    We lack effective government, certainly.
    It is high time we embarked on repatriation, restitution and reparation like former Eastern Europe.
    Iran must bow to international pressure on uranium enrichment suspension, or else.
    The world has been patient and generous with Iran, but how much longer?

  24. 24 pavan
    December 15, 2008 at 19:56

    is iran also feeling thre ripples of the economic rollercoaster ride?

  25. 25 Tom D Ford
    December 15, 2008 at 20:10

    My hope is that with the proliferation of the internet, cell phones, text messagers, travelers, and talk shows like WHYS, that more and more of the people on the planet talk to and hear each other and just by doing that the truth leaks out and the extremists get marginalized and everything moves towards moderation in all things.

    Good show WHYS, and thanks to all those who participated.

    In a sense you’re all waging Peace and I sure can admire you for that.

  26. 26 Carrie
    December 15, 2008 at 20:22

    At this time it appears that the only information regarding civil rights violations occurring is via the blogs. Do Iranian bloggers fear discussing issues such as the government’s determination to eradicate Baha’is, the execution of juvenile offenders sentenced to qesas, and discrimination of practices that curtail workers’ rights in Iran? Or, do they believe that at least voicing their concerns on blogs the world will know that not all Iranians believe the government’s stance on these issues?

  27. 27 DENNIS
    December 15, 2008 at 22:54

    I hope that the Iranian bloggers story and show was an educational show…


  28. December 16, 2008 at 01:05

    I wonder how many Iranian bloggers have touched on the fact that there is a mountain of evidence that criminals in the US government (and Israel) perpetrated 9/11, and that the mainstream Western media have eagerly censored out any mention of the evidence.

  29. 29 Ogola Benard
    December 16, 2008 at 10:45

    Blogging is a method of journalism! There is alot of knowledge out their from bloggers which governments don’t have!

  30. 30 DENNIS
    December 17, 2008 at 02:29

    I think that (you) have the right to blog about anything in your home country. Since, that is called Freedom of Speech.


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