Recent reports suggest the court prosecuting Hossein Derakhshan for allegedly spreading propaganda against the Islamic Republic has demanded the death sentence. So the executioner’s shadow hovers over the man Iranians regard as being the father of blogging.
Derakhshan (35), who has both Canadian and Iranian citizenship, developed a blog platform for Persian characters that was widely copied: hence the title ‘blogfather’. Though he has been critical of the government, more recently he has been a defender of President Ahmadinejad’s against his many critics. He was not expecting trouble when he returned to Iran in 2008. But he was arrested and now faces a possible death sentence. A possible explanation for this harsh treatment is his visit to Israel in 2006. He said he was aiming to start a dialogue to breakdown the stereotypes Iranians and Israelis had of each other.
This naïve idealism though was no threat to the Iranian government. A much more likely reason for the court’s severity is that Derakhshan is the founder of the Persian blogosphere where thousands of Iranians have vented their frustrations. Whatever the final sentence, no doubt some hard-line officials believe that the blogfather and all other bloggers need to be taught a lesson.
The case of Derakhshan goes to the heart of major tension in Iranian society: freedom of expression. Some believe it must be closely controlled for the sake of the whole; others are certain society is much healthier if outlets like ‘blogosphere’ are allowed. Christians do not believe in complete freedom of expression, so like the Iranian government, the church believes pornography should be censored. However the church believes people have a right to hear the Gospel, and would encourage not just the Iranian government, but all governments, to make sure that media outlets are available for the message of Jesus Christ.