Green is the New Green
by Negar Mottahedeh
The Negarponti Files
The Persian language blogosphere is a rich, varied and dynamic sphere of over 60,000 frequently updated blogs. In 2005, out of the 100 million blogs registered around the world, 700,000 were registered Persian blogs inside Iran and in the diaspora. With over 20 million Iranians connecting to the internet, and over 600,000 Iranians signed up on Facebook by the Presidential elections of the summer of 2009, the Iranian cyber community is by far the most dynamic community in the Middle East, and one that is unambiguously diverse. Of the over 60, 000 Persian language blogs, three quarters may be characterized as non-political in content, interested rather in questions of religion, poetry, and sexuality.
Shortly after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s election as president in June 2005, there were clear indications of a campaign for the centralization of state power over traditional media. During the first two years of Ahmadinejad’s presidency, more than 100 newspapers and other periodicals were banned. 70% of the press outlets were run by active supporters of Ahmadinejad. It is important to note that what remained of the opposition's news outlets was banned or put under strict surveillance in the aftermath of the June 12th Presidential elections in Iran in 2009. On the eve of the 2009 election, foreign reporters were either imprisoned or expelled from Iran. This, in part led to the rise of online “underground” papers, such as Kalam Sabz ( Green Word) and Khiaban (The Street), and more urgent uses of social media such as Facebook, Twitter and the Iranian social media site: Balatarin.com
The thousands of supporters the Green Movement on Twitter and Facebook became nodal points of information for what was happening on the ground, in the absence of foreign news agencies and independent media in Iran. Many of these supporters continued to help spread the news about various online and in-person campaigns. Others came to the aid of Iranian protesters by identifying safe havens for the wounded on Google maps as word spread that the wounded were being picked up and imprisoned by military forces upon their arrival to hospitals around Tehran.
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