Iranian blogger arrested
April 20, 2003 12:34 PM   Subscribe

Iranian blogger arrested Sina Motallebi, well-known blogger and journalist was arrested this morning. He is accused of threatening the national security by giving interviews to Persian language radios outside Iran, wrtiting articles both in newspapers and his weblog. His weblog, WebGard (i.e. web surfer), was among the top 5 Persian most popular weblogs while his wife, Farnaz, has her own weblog, mostly writing about their newly-born baby boy, Mani. [via jj]
posted by dagny (12 comments total)
Wife's blog here.
posted by dagny at 12:37 PM on April 20, 2003

"Yohoo, Mr. Bush! We would like to remind you that we are still part of the Axis of Evil!"
posted by Eloquence at 12:43 PM on April 20, 2003

Sometimes I dislike America, and then I see stuff like this, and I'm like, could be worse.

posted by xmutex at 12:52 PM on April 20, 2003

Don't want to be a buzzkill here, but this news is taken from a blog. I can't imagine anyone but the most fervert true believer getting worked up over this, and since MetaFilter is full of them (myself included), I guess maybe I shouldn't be so nit-picky. I am willing to bet, though, that if that goes unmentioned here it is because either 1) people just don't care, or 2) they are afraid of being called racist.

I seriously doubt any government employee has ever said he "endangered National Security by giving interviews to Persian language radios outside Iran, writing articles both in newspapers and his weblog." In fact, I seriously doubt any government employee has made any statement about this whatsoever.

I'm all for the sentiment: scary times, pointing out specific people who have been victims of the government, and whatnot. It's just that "reporting" like this can easily make the problem worse. It would be extremely easy for someone to read this article and say, "Damn liberals. For all we know, he could have been smuggling heroin for terrorists."

It would also be easy for a redneck to say that his wife's blog must have hidden messages in it because it's just covered in squiggly "nonsense" lines. Again, I'm for the sentiment. It's just that, apart from the pictures of the baby, it's not going to help. "They" would say, "Damn Anti-American foreigner shoulda written her site in English," if they aren't thinking there are hidden messages for terrorists.
posted by son_of_minya at 1:23 PM on April 20, 2003

son_of_minya, the piece seems to be saying that he has been arrested in Iran, not in the US or anywhere else... we're on the same page, right?

I've sent a quick note about this (with a link) to Amnesty International from their homepage asking that they investigate further.
posted by plep at 1:35 PM on April 20, 2003

son_of_minya, I'm sure the story will show up on the Reporters Without Borders page soon, hopefully with more details (RWB via rc3).
posted by mathowie at 1:43 PM on April 20, 2003

This story has made the mainstream news already :-

Ireland Online: Iranians detain liberal critic.

A liberal critic of the hard-line clerics who rule Iran was detained on Sunday after several hours of interrogation, his wife said.

Journalist Sina Motallebi was taken to an undisclosed jail after he responded to a summons on Saturday to report to a police station for interrogation, Farnaz Ghazizadeh told The Associated Press.

“Sina has been summoned by the judiciary several times over the past four months. They object to materials on his website including interviews he gave to foreign media,” Ghazizadeh said.

Ghazizadeh said she did not believe a police promise to release her husband within two days.

Motallebi developed the Farsi website after the reformist daily Hayat-e-Nou, or New Era, for which he wrote, was banned by the hard-line judiciary in January over a cartoon showing the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, leader of Iran’s 1979 revolution, being crushed by a hand.

The editor of Hayat-e-Nou, Hadi Khamenei, is the younger brother of Khomeini’s successor as Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Hadi Khamenei opposes his older brother’s policies.

Since early 2000, Iran’s hardline judiciary has closed down about 90 pro-democracy publications and jailed several dozen writers and activists on vague charges of insulting the authorities.

The crackdown is widely seen as part of a power struggle between reformists who support President Mohammad Khatami’s programme of social and political reforms and hardliners who oppose any dilution of clerical rule and resist change through the unelected institutions they control, including the judiciary and police.
posted by plep at 1:46 PM on April 20, 2003

Oh Christ, well that explains a few things. Sorry.

I wasn't aware Iranians used the term "national security" in the same ridiculous sense as the Bush Administration. The others who responded seemed to think this took place in the U.S., too. Maybe this could lead to the inspiration for a sophisticated concept art piece?
posted by son_of_minya at 1:54 PM on April 20, 2003

'National security' is trans-national, so to speak. :)
posted by plep at 2:00 PM on April 20, 2003

Just fyi, Reporters Without Borders lists a total of 49 "cyberdissidents" imprisoned so far this year -- most of them Chinese.
posted by jokeefe at 2:23 PM on April 20, 2003

Sorry, minya -- looks to me like you're the only one jumping to that particular conclusion.

There's a fascinating backdrop to this: the affair of the cartoon, when a reformist newspaper reprinted a 1937 editorial cartoon from the Cincinnati Star-Tribune about FDR's attempts to gain control over the Supreme Court [small]. The figure representing the court -- perhaps then-Chief Justice Harlan F. Stone -- seemed to resemble the late Ayatollah Khomenei, leader of the Islamic Revolution, and forbidden to criticize. Just last month the journalist involved was released on bail.

The Western-based online Persian newspaper Payvand News has places you can write, call, or fax to voice your support for Freedom of the Press in that country.

As depressing as it may sound, the frequent arrests of journalists and shutdowns of newspapers are far from the worst situations in the world. The shutdowns do not last; the charges are often dismissed. The regime is hampered by a judiciary that frequently exercises its independence. Reformists and conservatives seem to be circling each other warily in recent years.
posted by dhartung at 10:44 PM on April 20, 2003

An online petition is now up.
posted by plep at 5:43 AM on April 21, 2003

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