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Published:January 30th, 2006 10:18 EST
Public Enemy #1...The Blogger

Public Enemy #1...The Blogger

By Andrew Chien

At Tehran’s Azad University on January 21, 2006, it was an ordinary day for an extraordinary student. Mojtaba Saminejad leans against an open window with his thumbs resting against his chin. The rest of his fingers intertwine each other; as if in prayer. His face bears an expression as enigmatic as the one on the Mona Lisa. Black Suit, black hair, dark eyes mismatch his other noticeable fashion accessory: a pair of shiny silver handcuffs.

Saminejad has been in prison since February 2005 and was handcuffed and taken to the University for his exams. The Iranian courts have allowed him to continue his university course but denies him freedom. He has been arrested twice for keeping a journal on the internet.

In short, he has been given a prison sentence for “blogging”.  He was first arrested in November 2004 for speaking out against the arrest of three colleagues. Hackers with links to the Iranian Islamist Hezbollah movement accessed his website while Saminejad was in prison. Upon leaving jail, he moved his blog to http://8mdr8.blogspot.com, which led to his re-imprisonment, on February 12, 2005.

Saminejad was sentenced in June 2005, to two years in prison for “insulting the Supreme Guide.” A month later, he was also given an extra ten months in prison for incitement to “immorality”. Which is interesting, that protesting the arrest of his friends on the Internet is considered an insult to the “Supreme Guide”. One, that apparently is so vulgar and obscene that it constitutes two years in prison. Also, what exactly is incitement to“immorality?”

A fellow blogger, Arash Sigarchi, who is a journalist in Iran, states that
restrictions such as the: “inter-organizational factors that exist in most of the media around the world, out-of-organization elements such as legal restrictions, the influence of government and individuals, one-sided support of news resources, pressure groups and owners of capital have greater influence than in advanced countries,” prevents journalists from doing their job.

“But if you want to publish a story, poem, or essay in a newspaper or
magazine, it will be censored. So many Iranian writers publish their views in blogs, at least there; they are not forced to censor themselves.

“We can freely write in blogs,” said Sigarchi.

In early 2005, Sigarchi was held for two months by the information and
security ministry and then sentenced to 14 years in prison. He is free
pending an appeal.

“Although I have been convicted by Iranian courts, I have not lost hope and I am sure that in coming years the rulers of my country will have to respect the free flow of information and expression freedom,” said Sigarchi.