Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights

16 November 2009

Iranian 'web crime' unit designed to silence dissent

Iranian 'web crime' unit designed to silence dissent
Reports that the Iranian government plans to establish "cyber police" to fight "crimes" on the internet indicate that they are intensifying their attack on freedom of expression, Amnesty International said on Monday.

According to the Iranian media, a special unit reporting to the chief prosecutor is being set up to scour the web in search of people "spreading lies" and "insults" against the system.

Amnesty International has described it as an attempt to stifle dissent, intimidate political opposition and extend the climate of repression online.

"This new unit will further undermine freedom of expression, which is already severely limited in Iran," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa programme at Amnesty International. "The authorities’ aim seems to be to deter people from criticizing the government or circulating information – such as information on human rights violations – that they wish to suppress."

"Instead of permitting this, Iran’s judicial and security forces should end the mounting attack on Iran’s bloggers and online activists."

Repression of political dissent using vaguely worded legislation has long been common in Iran, with journalists and bloggers given prison sentences simply for criticizing the government.

Internet filtering has already been implemented to ensure the public does not see views that differ from those acceptable to the government.

This has created a palpable climate of repression following June’s disputed presidential election, forcing Iran’s otherwise active community of online journalists to self-censor or face arrest and possibly torture.

"Iran will be applying to cyber activists the same flawed legal standards that have resulted in the imprisonment of scores of journalists who did nothing other than report the facts, peacefully and objectively," said Malcolm Smart.

"In the midst of acute political tension throughout Iran, policing the internet is yet one more way in which the authorities are seeking to stifle political dissent."

Days after June's disputed presidential election, an arm of the Revolutionary Guard accused bloggers and websites of promoting “rebellion” and threatening to crack down on them.  

The creation of the cybercrimes unit is the latest repressive measure implemented by Iran’s security services.

Read More

Iranian security forces condemned after clampdown on protesters (News, 5 November 2009)
Threat of charges against Iranian presidential candidate part of cover up (News, 19 october 2009)
Iranian protester's death sentence must be reviewed (News, 9 October 2009)
Prominent lawyer banned from leaving Iran (News, 2 October 2009)
Iran must open Tehran trial to international observers (News, 12 August 2009)
Protesters' Rights trampled in Iran (Appeal for action, 28 July 2009)
Iran: Journalists detained as news restrictions tighten (Press release, 26 June 2009)
Roxana Saberi released from jail in Iran (News, 12 May 2009)
Deaths in custody in Iran highlight prison authorities' disregard for life (News, 20 March 2009)
Iran election unrest (Dedicated Amnesty International page)

Issue

Activists 
Freedom Of Expression 
Law Enforcement 

Country

Iran 

Region

Middle East And North Africa 

@amnestyonline on twitter

News

19 December 2014

A flurry of activity by UN member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty before it enters into force next week is another clear sign of the overwhelming... Read more »

18 December 2014

The rights of migrants are being trampled across the globe as they face economic exploitation, discrimination and racism in a range of countries.

Read more »
19 December 2014

A decision by South Korea's Constitutional Court to dissolve an opposition political party could have chilling consequences for freedom of expression and association in... Read more »

19 December 2014

A flurry of activity by UN member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty before it enters into force next week is another clear sign of the overwhelming... Read more »

19 December 2014

A flurry of activity by UN member states to sign and ratify the global Arms Trade Treaty before it enters into force next week is another clear sign of the overwhelming... Read more »