In Iran a blogger equals a serial killer. If the ruling conservatives manage to push their bill through the parliament, to the activities punishable by death will be added running blogs or websites that question the country’s ruling religion, Islam.
The proposed bill anticipates death for various crimes, among which apostasy is the most controversial. Apostasy – or “renunciation of a religious faith,” as it is explained by Webster Dictionary – is a broad term and many fear that the new law will give the religious police the green light to arrest their political opponents.
If the bill, dubbed the Mental Security Bill, is accepted, those who establish “weblogs, and sites promoting corruption, prostitution and apostasy,” will face the death sentence. “They should be punished as ‘mohareb’ (enemy of God) and corrupt on the earth,” reads the controversial legislation, quoted by the Agence France Presse.
“If this bill is adopted, there will be further infringement of the freedom of expression, citizens’ judicial security will be jeopardized and executions will increase,” the AFP quoted The Defenders of Human Rights Center, a leading Iranian human rights organization. “It will be up to the court to recognize corruption and apostasy so it will jeopardize the lives of those who are guilty only of writing.”
In Iran, where the government controls every sphere of life, the Internet is perceived not as something positive, but as a serious danger to the entire system. It is estimated that over five million Iranians, mostly young, have the access to the global network. A new measure will affect the increasingly growing number of those who express their discontent with the rulers by posting negative comments.
The Mental Security Bill is not the first time that Iranian legislators have been trying to restrict access to the Internet. In 2006, the government limited available online speed to 128 kilobits per second whereas in most developed countries this number often reaches seven megabytes or more. In addition, various state agencies censor the network at the level comparable to one in China.
Ironically, Iran’s most popular blogger is the country’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The blog (www.ahmadinejad.ir) was launched two years ago and immediately generated heavy traffic from around the world. Although not all comments praise the president, the general tone of them is plausible to the Iranian regime.