Teaching Comparative Government and Politics

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Intimidation from afar

Peter Whitehouse, who teaches at The Bolles School in Jacksonville, FL, sent me a link to an article about how the Iranian powers-that-be try to intimidate journalists and confuse their online readers.

He suggests that, "It would make a useful addition to a comparison of how Russia, China, and Iran approach the media, compared to the UK, Nigeria, and Mexico." This could be the beginning of a great comparative case study. How about six groups within a class, each becoming the authority on a country's government-media relationship?

Thanks, Peter.

Iran creates fake blogs in smear campaign against journalists in exile
Iran has been conducting a smear campaign designed to intimidate Iranian journalists living in exile, including apparent death threats. Cyber-activists linked to the Islamic republic have fabricated news, duplicated Facebook accounts and spread false allegations of sexual misconduct by exiled journalists, while harassment of family members back in Iran has been stepped up by security officials.
Iran's smear campaign against journalists in exile includes a fake version of the BBC's Persian website, right. The real BBC site is on the left. Photograph: BBC
The staff at the BBC's Persian service in London are among dozens of Iranian journalists who have been subjected to what appears to be an operation sponsored by the authorities and aimed at discrediting reporters in the eyes of the public in Iran.

It is not the first time the Iranian authorities has resorted to such tactics, but Sadeq Saba, head of BBC Persian, told the Guardian that the number of incidents and level of harassment has increased in the last few weeks.

"In comparison to previous round of harassment, this time the language they were using in Iran [against the family members] was more threatening," he said. According to Saba, members of journalists' families have been summoned to the intelligence service headquarters for questioning. One journalist whose parents were interrogated several times said they were told he should stop working for the BBC or risk being killed.

In recent weeks, the pro-regime activists have set up a number of fake Facebook accounts and blogs, purporting to belong to BBC journalists or their Iranian colleagues…

[T]he pressure has escalated after the broadcast in early December of Forced Confessions, a documentary by the Iranian film-maker Maziar Bahari. The documentary tells the story of Bahari and a number of other Iranians who were forced to confess under duress in Iran's prisons…

Although loathed by the Iranian government, BBC Persian is popular inside Iran and is watched by millions through illegal satellite dishes on rooftops…

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