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Iran's Supreme Leader Encourages Citizen Journalism

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
Ayatollah Ali Khamenei is apparently big on social media. Iran's supreme leader tweets, quite often in several languages. On top of that, he's now promoting citizen journalism.

Khamenei's office has called on citizens to send videos, pictures, and audio files they have recorded on their phones of his upcoming trip to the holy city of Qom to be posted on his website.

Khamenei is due to travel to Qom on October 19, as speculation grows about the aim of the trip.

The unrest in Iran following last year's disputed presidential election led to a rise in citizen journalism in the Islamic republic. Independent media were banned from covering the protests against President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's reelection, and -- to the dismay of the Iranian establishment -- the world learned about the protests and the use of force by pro-government forces through video clips and pictures that Iranian citizen journalists posted on YouTube and other social-media sites.

(See this interview with a citizen journalist who uploaded a video of police violence onto YouTube.)

That type of citizen journalism is not what the Iranian establishment is encouraging. A number of citizen journalists who covered the postelection protests on their blogs or through other means ended up in jail or were forced to leave the country.

(Read the story of blogger Alireza Rezai, who now lives in France.)

Khamenei's office has announced that it will post reports and observations from citizens on a special page. Will the office also post potentially critical observations? Most likely not.

Yet the use of social media by the opposition was a wake-up call for the hard-liners, who now seem to be trying to catch up.

Khamenei said last October that "the media" is more powerful and dangerous than nuclear weapons.

"Today, the most effective international weapon against enemies and opposition is the weapon of propaganda and the media. Today, this is the most powerful weapon and it is even worse and more dangerous than the atomic bomb," Khamenei said.

"Didn't you see this weapon of the enemy during the postelection unrest? With this very weapon, the enemy was following our affairs second by second and giving advice to those who were evil [the opposition]."

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.


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