Reporters Without Borders condemns the measures taken by the Iranian authorities to prevent the media, especially websites, from covering the apparently widespread fraud that marred the first round of the presidential election yesterday. Opposition candidates Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi have appealed to their supporters not to accept the “rigged results.”
“Amid mounting allegations of massive fraud, the government is implementing propaganda and censorship measures to legitimise Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s claim to a first-round victory,” Reporters Without Borders said. “It is vital that Iranian and foreign journalists present in Iran should be free to investigate the reports of fraud throughout the country. The presidential election’s credibility depends on this.”
The authorities have blocked access to pro-reform websites and sites that support Mousavi and Karoubi. Those blocked include Entekhab News (http://www.entekhab.ir/), which has been inaccessible since 11 June. The Ayandenews website (http://www.ayandenews.com/) was closed yesterday on the orders of the Tehran prosecutor general and police searched its offices. The authorities also closed the Moj Sevom (Third Wave) website (http://www.mowj.ir), which was showing a live TV feed from the Mousavi campaign headquarters.
Norooznews (http://norooznews.ir), a news website operated by the pro-reform Islamic Participation Party, which is backing Mousavi, and Ghalamsima (http://www.ghalamsima.com/), which is supporting the Mousavi campaign, have also been blocked.
Two women journalists working at the Mousavi campaign headquarters were physically attacked yesterday.
The state-owned media lost no time in announcing that President Ahmadinejad had won his reelection bid. “By obtaining the majority of votes in this 10th presidential election, Dr. Ahmadinejad has been victorious,” the government news agency Irna reported.
Tehran prosecutor general Said Mortazavi ordered pro-opposition newspapers on the evening of 11 June forbidding them to lead with stories announcing their candidate’s victory. Kalameh Sabaz, a newspaper owned by Mousavi, was threatened with having its printing press confiscated and had to change its front-page story proclaiming that Mousavi had won.
Meanwhile, the BBC’s website has been very hard to access within Iran and the women’s rights website We Change (http://www.we-change.org/) has been blocked for the 20th time.
To prevent the opposition from collecting elections results, the SMS (mobile phone messaging) system has been widely disrupted and opposition supporters have been denied access to many polling stations. A representative of Iran’s biggest communications company said it was trying to establish the “cause” of the interruption to the SMS service.
According to the partial results released by the Electoral Commission, which is controlled by Ahmadinejad supporters, Ahmadinejad has won about 65 per cent of the votes. This is disputed by his rivals, especially Mousavi, who is also claiming victory. The official websites of some of the candidates, including Karoubi’s (http://teribon.com/), were also blocked today after they criticised the Electoral Commission’s results.
Finally, some of the foreign journalists who are in Iran to cover the elections have been notified by the authorities that their press visas will not be renewed.