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Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Iranian Internet users face blockage during coming election

TEHRAN: The Iranian government might block private access to the Internet for the general legislative election on March 14, two Iranian news outlets reported Monday.

But the two accounts appeared to differ on the rationale. "Shutting down the Internet service will depend on security plans and on the Ministry of Telecommunication," said Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the interior minister, according to Etemad Melli, a daily.

At the same time, a senior election official, Muhammad Javad Mahmoudi, said a shutdown would help ensure that the government had unimpeded Internet service for the election, even though the governments' Internet lines had been upgraded, according to ISNA.

Iran has placed many restrictions on the Internet, but it has never shut down the Internet on such a scale. Several million Iranians follow political news on the Internet, and political parties have their own active Web sites.

In 2006, the authorities banned download speeds on private computers faster than 128 kilobytes per second.

The government also uses sophisticated filtering equipment to block hundreds of Web sites and blogs that it considers religiously or politically inappropriate. Many bloggers have been jailed in the past years, and dozens of Web sites have been shut down.


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