Imprisoned Bloggers in Iran

The “Iran Security Team’’ reports:

“Iransec” team has recently issued a report titled “Imprisoned Bloggers in Iran” on 360 cases of human right violations linked to online activities.

The data collection phase of this report, titled “Blogging is Not a Crime” started in 2014 and completed last year.

Iransec was founded in the summer of 2012 with the goals of enhancing cyber security of the Iranian civil activists and opposing any sort of censorship in the digital world by means of raising awareness, training, and creating accessible tools for civil activists, journalists, and human right defenders. The focus of Iransec is cyber security and it has provided cyber security training materials in its website and weblog.

The introduction of the report “Imprisoned Bloggers in Iran” reads: “blogging in Iran has faced numerous obstacles for the last 15 years; the Iranian government has very strict policies toward blogging and has contributed to the decline of blogging in Iran. Weblogestan’s debut coincided with Iranian government’s censorship and repressive measures in the online world. As the domestic political changes were occurring in Iran, the heyday of blogging was severely suppressed.”

According to this report, more than 360 bloggers have been sentenced to prison and flogging; and some of them are still missing without a trace. 85% of these convicted bloggers were male, 11 % female and 4% non-identified.

Nasim Nikouei, the project manager of “Imprisoned Bloggers in Iran”: “after the events of the Presidential election in 2009, more online-related arrests occured. Unfortunately, the judges and lawyers have little experience and knowledge about cybercrimes. It is worthy to note that cybercrimes legislations were only passed in 2010 and revised in 2013. These legislations are full of legal gaps and defects; they are also used by judges and lawyers with little knowledge of the cybercrimes law. So, we started a campaign to highlight the violation of right of the people who fell victim to these shortcomings.”

Per Nasim Nikouei, “reading the first version of cybercrimes law, one realizes that most of the crimes are political; we believed these laws were passed to suppress online activities which were not favored by the government.”

The project manager of “Imprisoned Bloggers in Iran” adds: “the lack of a complete and accurate report on imprisoned bloggers, the cause of their arrest and their current situation compelled Iransec, as an active resource of information technology, to start this project”. Per this member of Iransec Group, “this was not our area of expertise, so we decided to release the report so that anyone have access to it and use it according to their knowledge and experience”. “this public report will be a great resource for cyber security researchers to study and educate the public”

Milad Nikouei a member of Iransec who worked on this report: “we relied on the great expertise of our members in documenting and reportage. We decided to trust the human right reports more and the official media less”

“a challenge was the definition of ‘cyber activist’ which sometimes overlapped with journalism. In these cases we study the verdict and added that activist to the list if the verdict was connected to online activities” states Milad.

Milad states that the project launched in 2014; “we collected a list of online activists whose human rights were violated since the beginning of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidential term and the wave of cyber activists’ arrest. These arrests are still happening and we update this list regularly”

Activists involved in this project inform of the continuation of this project in the future: “our goal is to complete our archive of the arrests and update it periodically”

According to Nasim Nikouei; “we have endeavored to study and review all collected data. But since we had not had any access to the information in the judicial system, possible errors and omissions may have occurred. However, since we cross-referenced to intelligent sources and official statistics in human rights sphere, we stand by the accuracy of our report to a large extent.”

The members of this project consider it to be a collaborative project: “without the support of human right activists, journalists and bloggers, it is impossible to better the current situation. A part of the issue is the defects in the cybercrimes law; the civil society should pressure the legislature into revising the law. The other issue is judicial system’s lack of knowledge and experience in this field; our lawyers and judges should actively improve their expertise in this area.”

According to Milad, “the main issue here is a security-based approach which legitimizes any arbitrary action by security forces.” He adds:” unfortunately, after the recent terrorist attack in Tehran, the supreme leader of Iran has authorized “the soft war officers” to act without order. We believe that this will amount to more suppression and will worsen the situation. Now hacking groups do official work for the government, although hacking is illegal according to the current cybercrimes law. These approaches delimit the presence of cyber activists and can develop into more dire results; for instance, we are still unaware of the fate of Narenji group and Arash Zaad. Another example is the case of Hossein Ronaghi.”

Hossein Ronaghi Maleki who blogged under the pseudonym Babak Khorramdin, was arrested on December 13th 2009 in East Azerbaijan province of Iran. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison and the appeal court upheld the verdict. He was released from Evin on may 4th 2016.

In Farsi:

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Zamaneh Media

Zamaneh Media

‏Zamaneh Media is a Persian language media organization based in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. READ MORE: https://en.radiozamaneh.com/about/