You are viewing a read-only archive of the Blogs.Harvard network. Learn more.

Iran Considering Death Penalty Bill for Weblog Crimes (updated)

Proceeding with its campaign to curb freedom of speech, Iran may now expand its list of crimes punishable by death to the World Wide Web. Under a new draft bill, authors and editors of websites and weblogs found to promote “corruption, prostitution, and apostasy” would be subject to the death penalty. In recent years, online content in Iran has been targeted in an effort to defend the “moral security” of Iranian society. If the draft bill is accepted, Iran’s penal code will punish bloggers in the same way as those who create prostitution networks or commit armed robbery and rape. Procedurally, judges will determine whether the accused party is a “mohareb” (enemy of God) or “corrupter on Earth.”

Reporters without Borders quickly condemned the proposal and was careful to point out the dangers of loose interpretation on the part of judges:

This proposal is horrifying. Iranian Internet users and bloggers already have to cope with very aggressive filtering policies. The passage of such a law, based on ill-defined concepts and giving judges a lot of room for interpretation, would have disastrous consequences for online freedom.

The Iranian blogosphere has already shared their reactions to the draft bill. The responses express anxiety about the consequences of this proposal, including how easily a judge would be able to charge bloggers of certain crimes. But the blogosphere has also called on Parliament to reject the bill and prevent the adoption of it as law. Blogger Bazri writes:

We should do our best to stop members of Parliament from approving this draft bill. Tomorrow it will be too late. It is easy to accuse a blogger of corruption or apostasy. Let’s tell the Parliament that to think differently is not a crime that should be punishable by death.

Unfortunately, Iran is not the first Mid-East country to enact such legislation. According to Global Voices, Yemen has adopted equally repressive measures in dealing with owners and editors of websites. If Iran steps up its repression of cyber-space, it will not be an anomaly. In some authoritarian countries, dissent—whether political, social, or moral—has been punishable by death. As new platforms for dissent open up in these countries, it appears that the same rules apply.

Update: This draft bill seems to have generated a lot of buzz in the blogosphere. If you read Persian, you can read the text of the bill yourself here. From a distance, it seems that this bill is not that likely to pass since only 19 members of the Majlis have signed on, and we understand at least 129 votes would be needed for it to be approved. Anyone else out there have a sense of how likely this bill is to actually pass? Let us know.

Be Sociable, Share!

2 Responses to “Iran Considering Death Penalty Bill for Weblog Crimes (updated)”

  1. balderdash Says:

    wow,sounds like im back at the stone age during the monarch governance.

  2. » “Legal” Harshness I&D Blog Says:

    […] a follow up to our post on the draft Iranian law that would expand the number of crimes that can be punished by death, […]