Iran judiciary seals offices of news Web site
24 September 2007
TEHERAN - Iran's judiciary has sealed off the offices of a popular news Web site critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's policies after journalists continued to update it despite official filtering, the Web site said.
Rights groups and diplomats say there is a broad crackdown on dissenting voices in the Islamic state, which is under growing Western pressure over its disputed nuclear programme. The authorities deny such moves, saying they allow free speech.
Blocking access to Baztab.com earlier this year was seen as part of the clampdown. Updates to the Web site, which is published in English and Farsi, were still available to Internet users outside Iran until the offices were sealed.
The last item on the Web site carried the headline: "The wish of the presidential office was realised and Baztab's offices were sealed off". The site, when accessed via a link outside Iran, indicated it was last updated on Sept. 23.
ï¿½??Baztabï¿½??s offices were sealed off on Wednesday. The judiciary says that as the Web site has been filtered, its offices should be closed down as well, Mohammad Javad Barbarian, Baztab's managing director, was quoted by Etemad-e Melli daily as saying.
Baztab was banned in February on several charges, including "spreading lies". It reopened in March and continued to publish articles critical of the government, particularly its economic policies. It was filtered again -- meaning access was blocked -- in April.
Baztab is the second news Web site to be banned in recent months. Iran's labour news agency, ILNA, which often reported on workers protests and arrests of rights activists, was closed by the authorities in July.
In addition, two prominent pro-reform newspapers, Ham Mihan and Sharq, both critical of the government, have been shut down.
Although Iran says it allows free speech, journalists say they have to tread carefully between a growing number of "red lines" to avoid closure. Iran's culture minister in July said there were signs of a "creeping coup" in the country's press."
Burn the nest...