Blogging in Iran has never been easy and free of risk. In recent years, a number of bloggers and online journalists critical of the establishment have been detained, jailed, harassed, and forced to confess to working with "enemies." And a growing number of blogs and websites have been shut or "filtered."
But a recent move in the conservative-dominated parliament could make life for bloggers and online journalists in the Islamic Republic even tougher or perhaps even impossible.
The parliament discussed a bill last week that, if implemented, would increase punishments "for disturbing mental security in society." It proposes, among other things, the death penalty for bloggers and website editors who promote "corruption, prostitution, or apostasy."
The draft bill has worried Iranian bloggers, groups defending press freedom, and rights activists who says the bill would give the government a free hand to treat bloggers like criminals.
The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders
has warned against the "disastrous consequences" of such a law for online freedom and said that it would give judges "a lot of room for interpretation."
The bill could also lead to more executions in Iran -- which already has one of the highest execution rates in the world.
One wonders what's next on the government's agenda. Banning critical thinking?
-- Golnaz Esfandiari