Times are hard for Iran’s online free-speech pioneer

There is a nice article about Hossein Derakhshan in the Ottawa Citizen. It documents his shift in thinking and the troubles it has caused him. back when his blog was shutdown few of his former allies supported him.What changed? Hossein became very concerned about the demonization of Iran, a possible attack on Iran, and the manipulation of human rights issues to support the former.

All this has left him isolated from the community of politically active expatriate Iranians who formerly supported him. Some bloggers have removed links to his blog. Others have actively urged readers to boycott him. Interview requests from western-based Iranian media have dried up, as have invitations to ex-pat events and panel discussions.

It’s quite a change for someone once widely viewed as a free-speech techno-hero.

A while back Hossein shut down the stop.censoring.us site that he was running that was focused on Internet censorship in Iran as a protest against the use of the issue to demonize Iran. He wrote:

Internet censorship exists in Iran, as it does in many other parts of the world, especially in the Middle East.

But it has recently become another pretext for the United States and its allies to further demonise and delegitimise the government of Iran.

This reminded me of an earlier case regarding China, “The Great Chinese Censorship Hoax“. Two Chinese bloggers closed their blogs and waited for the news media, bloggers and anti-censorship groups to assume, which they did, that the government shut the blogs down. one of the bloggers involved stated:

“I just wanted to make fun of Western journalists? [content] doesn’t need to be serious on the Internet. I don’t like it that Western media take a distorted view of China, though China does have problems,” Wang told Interfax in an emailed statement, “I thought that if I closed my blog, it would stir their imagination and then they would begin blah blah. It really is as expected. So let’s they have an April Fool’s day in advance.”

These are only two cases but I’m wondering if these cases are a signal of an incubating trend.

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