The Blog Shall Make You Free http://online.wsj.com/article/0,,SB105848499831453000,00.html?mod=opinion
The story of Canadian journalist Zahra Kazemi, who Iran has finally admitted died from brain injuries sustained when Iranian secret police beat her, made international news this week. More surprising is that Westerners are hearing about Iranian journalist Sina Motallebi, arrested for the crime of blogging.
Technology has played a huge role in modern democracy movements, whether it was faxes during the 1989 Tiananmen uprising, or e-mail during the Russian overthrow of its dictators. Iran, for its part, has discovered blogs. In less than two years an estimated 10,000 blogs have popped up under the very noses of mullahs, mostly written in Persian, and all of them giving Iranians a new free-speech outlet.
Thanks to these blogs, Iranians are gabbing fairly freely about everything from entertainment and poetry to technology and personal diaries. Iranian women (who can take different names online) use blogs to talk about dating, sex and other taboo subjects. And, of course, the blogs are playing a real role in Iran's democracy movement. Bloggers provide firsthand accounts of student protests, political criticism and even attract politicians -- who comment on postings.
Iran's mullahs might be slow but they're catching on. They have started blocking sites they deem subversive (including Voice of America's Persian-language site) and have occasionally shut down student sites and blog-hosting services like persianblog.com. They also decided to make an example of Mr. Motallebi. A journalist for a paper that was shut down by the government, Mr. Motallebi began a blog. His site, while rarely political, was very popular. In April he was arrested on undisclosed charges, and is now awaiting trial.
That Westerners know about Mr. Motallebi is largely the result of another blogging phenomenon: Iranians who run English-language blogs outside of Iran. Pedram Moallemian, born in Iran but now living in California, runs a blog (www.eyeranian.net) and started an online petition to protest Mr. Motallebi's arrest. Hossein Derakhshan, who runs a Iran-focused blog (www.hoder.com) in Canada, helped bring the story to the attention of well-known blogs like InstaPundit and Buzz Machine, which means a lot of Americans now know the story. Mr. Derakhshan has also provided Iranians back home with the technical information to set up blogs.
The Internet won't bring down Iran's dictators. But the blogging phenomenon shows that human freedom and expression will not be denied, and that technology will only continue to make the job of dictators that much harder.
"that technology will only continue to make the job of dictators that much harder."
A lot harder. They underestimate this element.