When will dictators learn that you can’t stop info getting out?
First published in Journalism, Journalists and the World.
Repressive regimes keep trying to control media outlets from good old analog print to the Internet.
And keep failing.
The latest example is Iran.
Foreign journalists were ordered to stay inside. This, the government figured would keep any crackdown against anti-government demonstrators out of the international news. But protesters just started running their mobile phones in video mode and the word got out.
Looking to block Twitter and other Internet sites, the Iranian government even took a page out of the Chinese book on monitoring the Internet by hiring thousands of people to watch what is being said. But that still did not stop the mobile phones.
The Chinese faced a similar problem after the 2008 Sichuan earthquake. The Chinese government did let in foreign journalists just after the earthquake so that the world could see how fast the government reacted to the disaster. But what the government tried to block were the subsequent demonstrations by grieving families who wanted to hold corrupt local and provincial officials accountable for the shoddy workmanship in the public schools.
Word of the demonstrations got out by mobile phone. The government tried to cut off the texting portion of the mobile network but to no avail.
Here are some reports about how technology played a role in Iran in not only helping people protest against their government but also in getting the news out.
- The Role of Twitter in the Iran Protests
- Twitter postpones ‘critical’ upgrade to avoid outage during Iran demonstrations
- Use of Censorship Circumvention Services Soars in Iran
- Iran demonstrations: Plenty of Internet news, but is it reliable?
- Beijing tightens its grip on the internet
- Beijing cuts broadcaster’s signal amid media crackdown
- China expands Internet controls
Defending the First Amendment and promoting open government are more crucial now than ever. Join SPJ's fight for the publics right to know either as an SPJ Supporter or a professional, student or retired journalist.