Information From Iran Slows to a Trickle

When Iranian authorities began to restrict foreign journalists’ ability to report from inside the country after the disputed June 12 election, millions of people turned to blogs and social media channels to exchange the latest information about what was happening in Iran. However, in recent days, real-time accounts have become increasingly difficult to come by and verify. Some videos and photos have emerged on the web, but many of them appear to be of Saturday’s rallies; the last several days have gone largely undocumented.

A typical Tweet making the rounds yesterday encouraged Iranians to film a newspaper showing that day’s date to prove that the events captured on film were in fact new.

“Letters from Iran”, a blog that has been publishing dispatches from its contacts inside the country, wrote about the situation today.

Information is becoming more and more difficult to obtain and if it wasn’t for the incredible courage of just a few which manage still to report live through twitter, endangering themselves dramatically in doing so, we would have no information whatsoever on the unfolding of the situation….

But the flow of information is now so light that it seems it could come to a halt pretty soon. There are very few Photos and videos from the alleged past days events and, as more videos continue to emerge from last Saturday’s street fights, it is in most cases impossible to know when and where they were taken.

It is therefore almost impossible to grasp the situation inside Iran right now. A black cloud of death, terror and rage has covered the country.

Our colleagues at Slate believe that the internet may actually be easier for a repressive state to control than organizing methods of the past.

Over the last couple of weeks, those who believe in the transformative powers of technology have pointed to Iran as a test case–one of the first repressive regimes to meet its match in social media, the first revolution powered by Twitter. Even in the early days of the protest, that story line seemed more hopeful than true, as Slate’s Jack Shafer, among many others, pointed out.

Since last week, though, when the state began to systematically clamp down on journalists and all communications networks leading out of the country, hope has become much harder to sustain. The conflicting accounts about what happened at Baharestan Square are evidence that Iran’s media crackdown is working. The big story in Iran is confusion–on a daily basis, there are more questions than answers about what’s really happening, about who’s winning and losing, about what comes next. The surprise isn’t that technology has given protesters a new voice. It’s that, despite all the tech, they’ve been effectively silenced.

Meanwhile, the Committee to Protect Journalists says roughly 40 journalists have been detained since June 12, most of them working for Iranian news organizations.


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