Blogging In Iran Can Get You The Death Penalty
There’s a bit of news on iafrica.com that should cause every freedom of speech loving blogger to take notice and be thankful that they live in countries where it’s safer to blog that it is in Iran. Also, if you’re a blogger that’s even thinking about traveling to Iran and doing some blogging while you’re there, you’ll want to double or even triple your travel insurance, particularly your life insurance policies.
Just in case you thought China was the only country doing stuff like this, they’re not. The Iranian government is working on a law that’s going to “toughen punishment for harming mental security in society” (translation: give the government more license to kill people that openly disagree with it.) They’re already blocking websites that either have sexual content, anything religious that does not agree with Islamic doctrines, and of course, anything that doesn’t agree with government approved politics.
Crimes like murder, rape, armed robbery have been on the death penalty list for a long time along with apostasy which means the act of leaving or turning away from a religion. In Islam, deciding to quit the religion gets you the death penalty.
The bill they’re working on now is adding more to the list of death penalty crimes. One of them is “establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy”. This means that if an Iranian puts up a blog or a website and the government decides that it does any of those things, that person can be sentenced to death.
The language leaves them a pretty wide latitude since even if a website doesn’t touch prostitution or apostasy, they can decide to claim that absolutely anything they don’t like or that is critical or in opposition to the government constitutes corruption and again the person responsible gets the death sentence. Thankfully, there’s ways for people in Iran to continue blogging and speaking out against the government there or even just plain speaking freely without fear of reprisals like the death penalty.
One very effective answer is Anonymous Blogging, writing a blog using anonymity tools so that the blog’s content cannot be traced back to the person writing it. One very effective tool is to use TorBrowser. It’s a copy of Firefox that has had it’s settings fine tuned to maximize privacy and anonymity. It also includes a copy of TOR and all of TorBrowser’s connections are routed through TOR.
One can create an anonymous email address and use TorBrowser to create a blog on free sites such as blogger or WordPress.com. As long as the blogger only connects to the blogging site with TorBrowser and is careful about what they write, insuring that they don’t give away any information that could be used to identify them, they can safely blog away without fear of reprisals.
Another option, and in my opinion the best option, is to use Freenet. By publishing within Freenet anyone can be completely anonymous given care about identifying clues in the content. They can then ask other Freenet users to copy their material and publish it on the regular web where it’s available to the whole world and not traceable back to the one who wrote it.
Either of these methods of anonymous publishing are slower and generally have a higher learning curve but the benefit is a greater degree of anonymity and untraceability. I admit that The Freenet option is the more involved of the two however it also yields the best overall security for the anonymous publisher. The TorBrowser option on the other hand does have the advantage that it can be installed on flash drive which can be easily hidden and used on any computer with a USB 2.0 port.
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