Thursday, November 18, 2010

Brecht and the Filtration of Weblogs

My late father was a Professor of Mechanical Engineering, but also very fond of arts, particularly theater. Years before the Islamic Revolution in 1979,  my father would regularly check the local theaters and prepare tickets for the family. He once took us to a performance entitled : The Exception and the Rule,  a famous work written by  Bertolt Brecht. The play was considered very intellectual and in a sense revolutionary in those days. As a young 15 year old teenager,  I was fascinated by the idea that one day an exception could replace a rule;  not in written, but in practice where the rules actually count.
Some years later, the Islamic Revolution of 1979, came to abolish autocracy and despotism and to establish a rule of divine law and ethical practice. Like many young men and women, I was part of that revolutionary and progressive movement. We struggled  for our dignity, our freedom and our future.  The Constitution which was drawn up in the early months after the victory , was written by revolutionaries who had experienced a taste of detainment, torture and pressure during the despotic reign of the Shah.

Article 6: In the Islamic Republic of Iran, the freedom, independence, unity, and territorial integrity of the country are inseparable from one another, and their preservation is the duty of the government and all individual citizens. No individual, group, or authority, has the right to infringe in the slightest way upon the political, cultural, economic, and military independence or the territorial integrity of Iran under the pretext of exercising freedom. Similarly, no authority has the right to abrogate legitimate freedoms, not even by enacting laws and regulations for that purpose, under the pretext of preserving the independence and territorial integrity of the country. 

Article 24: Publications and the press have freedom of expression except when it is detrimental to the fundamental principles of Islam or the rights of the public. The details of this exception will be specified by law. 

The Constitution has thus been considered as one of the most progressive texts although many believe there are certain restrictions and contradictory clauses  in the text, which leave room for interpretations out of the context of the Law.
Now and particularly following the disputed elections last year, the government has imposed severe restrictions on the activity of journalists and bloggers.  While State media including the Radio and Television  are monopolized and only disseminate the official versions, private weblogs and sites have been filtered on charges of criticizing or questioning government policy and supporting  domestic opposition groups. Social networks like Facebook  and opposition news networks are totally filtered. Anti-filter software and emails that provide open information  are the tactics taken up by people to counter these measures.
My weblog in Farsi was initially filtered  a few months ago and then obstructed, after which I created a blogspot blog( which was also filtered last week.

A new development in this regard is the filtration of this English blog , Persian Paradox for the first time. Readers in Iran will now have to use a anti - filter to have access to this blog, for international viewers there should be no change.

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