In another move to crack down on information flowing out of Iran, the Islamic Republic’s judicial chief has ordered the prosecution of individuals "who cooperate with satellite television programming providers," a reformist newspaper reported Sunday.
“The individuals, who in any way collaborate with these networks or are entrenched in the nucleus of organizations which are active through Internet sites, must be adequately and properly subject to legal actions. It is imperative that this phenomenon be seriously dealt with by all judicial authorities of the country as well as by provincial judicial authorities,” Ayatollah Seyyed Mahmoud Hashemi-Shahroudi said in his order, which was quoted by the newspaper Hamshahri. The ayatollah called on local judicial heads to work with investigators to determine “intentions, objectives and their sources of financial, political and intelligence support” of individuals who “operate against the system,” according to Hamshahri, a widely circulated pro-reform publication that has been in print for more than a decade. The scope of the reported threat and whether it was referring to international networks, reporters and stringers was not immediately clear. Because international journalists have been limited in their ability to gather news in Iran, CNN has not been able to confirm the news report. However, the government has been trying to limit the flow of online information and other forms of communications in Iran, according to activists and human rights officials.
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Since June 12, when disputed presidential election results sent tens of thousands of Iranians into the streets to protest, the world got a front-row view of the unrest thanks largely to dissidents using online tools to spread the news. News from Internet users has been important as Iran’s government began kicking out some reporters from traditional media outlets, arresting others and restricting the movements of those who remained. More than 1,000 people have been arrested over the election fallout, including several journalists, according to the international human rights watchdog Amnesty International. Most recently, the semi-official Fars News Agency reported that a journalist for Newsweek magazine who was arrested in Tehran confessed to doing the bidding of Western governments, though CNN could not verify the report. Maziar Bahari, 42, made his alleged confession at a news conference Tuesday. Fars reported that the Canadian-Iranian reporter, who had worked for the BBC and England’s Channel 4 network, admitted having filed false reports for Newsweek during the elections. The magazine has rejected the allegation.