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SMS jokes as political speech; Iran intensifies crackdown before elections; protest against Iran's jamming outside UN conference; Spanish language satellite launched

Persian Cyberspace Report: Online Iranians feel the weight of increased sanctions, Twitter calls for volunteers to help translate Twitter into Persian, ‘A Separation’ is nominated for this year’s Oscars, Reporters Without Borders says Iran is ‘Among Worst’ of countries for press freedom, and two female journalists are being held in solitary confinement: is the situation spiralling out of control (or did that happen a long time ago)?

The judicial authorities in Iran have arrested at least half a dozen journalists and bloggers over the past few weeks, according to their acquaintances, opposition Web sites and rights groups. The moves appear to be part of a pre-emptive campaign of intimidation to thwart protests surrounding the parliamentary elections that are scheduled to be held in early March.

Iran has been ranked 175 out of 179 countries reviewed in the Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders.

Defense Ministry closes probe into Allot's alleged Iran sales
The investigation concluded that the company was unaware that the internet monitoring equipment it sold to a distributor ended up in Iranian hands. The Ministry of Defense has closed its investigation against Allot Communications Ltd. for alleged sales of its internet monitoring software to Iran. The investigation concluded that the company was unaware that the equipment it sold to a distributor ended up in Iranian hands. "Bloomberg" broke the story in late December, claiming that Allot knowingly sold the equipment to Iran. According to "Bloomberg", the company's "deep-packet inspection" technology can monitor e-mails and messages, and locate people through mobile phones. Allot's share price fell over 5% on Nasdaq and the TASE following the report, notwithstanding the company's denial.

Iran’s Green Revolution geeks are taking their struggle to cyberspace, but the clerical regime’s censors are already there — and gunning for them. “There is an arms race in cyberspace and it’s caught up with Iran,” says Ron Deibert, who heads University of Toronto’s Citizen Lab, which monitors the digital media’s intersection with human rights. “It’s not the only government to increase Internet surveillance and censorship, but it has ambitions to engage in more sophisticated surveillance of network traffic. We can see that the Iranians are developing fine-grained techniques.” Iran has also stepped up a ground war against its suspected enemies: GTA web designer Saeed Malekpour, along with Internet professionals Vahid Asghari and Ahmad Reza Hasempour, were sentenced to death this month in Iran, as part of a crackdown on people who use cyberspace to spread messages the regime considers subversive. “What we do know is that Ashghari, Hasempour and Malekpour were all targeted because they were seen as capable of hosting, or assisting with the building of websites,” says the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. “Iran has a policy of dismantling ‘destructive’ online networks, and the three appear to have been rounded up as part of this crackdown.”

Press TV hit back furiously yesterday after it was banished from British television screens. Bizarrely, it placed the blame mainly on Britain's royal family. The London-based satellite news channel accused Britain of censorship and flouting freedom of speech, ignoring Iran's restrictions on its own media and its jamming of the BBC's Persian service and Voice of America. Ofcom, Britain's independent media watchdog, revoked Press TV's licence on Friday for breaking licensing rules and failing to pay a record £100,000 fine for broadcasting an interview with a prisoner obtained under duress. But the 24-hour Iranian channel, launched in 2007 to break the West's "stranglehold" over the world's media, detected far murkier, politically motivated reasons for its muzzling.

The Guardian's op-ed: Suppressing Press TV is deplorable – Ofcom should restore its licence now. Ofcom is banning the station on spurious grounds, and this move will only serve to increase anti-western sentiment in Iran.

Hacker attacks on government and public Internet resources of Azerbaijan were carried out from Iran and Netherlands, Minister of Communications and Information Technologies Ali Abbasov told reporters on Saturday. "Twenty five sites suffered as a result of the attack, but their work was restored in about two hours," Abbasov said. "Investigation on the case was completed the day before, and it was revealed that 24 attacks were carried out from Iran, and one from the Netherlands," Abbasov said. "We sent a letter to the Iranian side yesterday indicating the exact address where the attack was carried out. We believe that Iran could be used as a transit country and the attack could have been initiated from a third country." "We believe that the state agencies of those countries aren't involved in this case," Abbasov said.

Seven men and 1 woman were imprisoned in Iran for holding discussions on Islam in the internet. APA reports that Kamran Ayazi was imprisoned for 9 years, Laden Mustofi for 5 years, Haniye Sane Farshi for 7 years, Hujjatullah Nikuyi for 5 years, Mohammedrza Puneki for 6 years, Mohammedrza Ahlagi for 6 years, Sapehr Ibragimi for 8 years, Amir Latifi for 7 years because of discussing and disputing on Islamic rules in the internet. They were arrested in February 2011 by ETTELAAT. Now they are kept in Tehran prison. Tebriz resident Haniye Sane Farshi is Azerbaijani and isn’t engaged in political activity.

Activists Launch Protest at Geneva Gathering of World Radiocommunication Conference: The World Radiocommunication Conference (WRC), the UN regulatory gathering opening today in Geneva, should take decisive steps to end the Iranian government’s illegal and widespread jamming of satellite signals, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran said today. “This year’s Conference is facing a serious challenge in the Iranian government’s breach of international telecommunications standards. The Conference must put an immediate end to this illegal practice,” said Hadi Ghaemi, the Campaign’s spokesperson.

Head of Iran's Guardians Council Now The Principal Butt Of Jokes: Sociologist Saeed Peivandi believes the continuation of Jannati's “negative role” and his disconnectedness with the realities of Iran and its young population are among the main reasons for the many jokes making fun of his age. “There are other figures who have been involved in Iranian politics for as long as [Jannati], even if they might not be as old as him" he says. "Nonetheless, they have changed their positions and have also altered their views, which have been evolving over time. But the only one who seems to be repeating the same old views like a tape recorder is Jannati. This can be hard for the public to take and they see jokes as the only way to confront it.” The number of jokes about the uncharismatic cleric and their quick dissemination through word of mouth, text messages, and social media, has elicited a response from some conservative media. Last week, the “Panjere” weekly, which is associated with a conservative lawmaker, said that the jokes are an “election plot” aimed at damaging the Guardians Council.

Iran launches Spanish channel: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Tuesday officially launched Iran's latest foreign-language news channel, a 24-hour satellite broadcaster aimed at Spanish speakers worldwide. "Viva España, viva America Latina," he said in Spanish at the end of a televised speech to dignitaries attending the launch ceremony in Tehran. The new channel, HispanTV, has already been test-broadcasting since mid-November from its offices in Tehran, using a staff of Iranian, Spanish and Latin American journalists.

Ahmadinejad is going to give "a gift" to all journalists in Iran in March, which will coincide with the Parliamentarian Election and New Years in Iran. There has been no official comment on the nature of the gifts, but there has been suggestions of gold coins or laptops.






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