It’s great to be blogging from the security of the home office here in Eketahuna.
Alf would have second thoughts about expressing his thoughts on some matters if he was operating out of a house in – let’s say – Iran.
He is valuing his freedom of expression today having learned that the authorities there have arrested at least half a dozen journalists and bloggers.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, these arrests appear to amount to a pre-emptive campaign of intimidation to thwart protests surrounding parliamentary elections scheduled for March.
The arrests, including those of two prominent women whose blog posts are widely read in the country, were not reported by the official media.
Rights groups and people who know the detained journalists said the government apparently wanted news of the arrests to spread informally, to heighten the atmosphere of fear.
If the buggers who have been rounded up are the Iranian equivalents of Bomber Bradbury or the tossers at The Standard, Alf might not lose much sleep.
But in this case they could finish up being given death sentences.
The Iranian authorities are apt to react somewhat firmly, when they don’t like what they read, and don’t seem at all bothered about bumping off bloggers – or anyone, probably – who piss them off.
And so the Daily Mail reports –
Two Iranian bloggers are to be executed for ‘spreading corruption’ – as Tehran cracks down on freedom of expression in the run up to its parliamentary elections in March.
Dunno what the “corruption” thing is all about.
But the arrests of journalists and the imminent executions of the bloggers is the sort of thing that gets the US fuming about freedom of expression and civil liberties and all that carry-on.
And sure enough, as the Daily Mail tells us, US State Department mouthpiece Victoria Nuland has expressed dismay:
‘We are deeply concerned by the alarming increase in the Iranian regime’s efforts to extinguish all forms of free expression and limit its citizens’ access to information.’
She further said:
“Iranian courts confirmed death sentences for bloggers Saeed Malekpour and Vahid Asghari, both of whom were not accorded due process and now face imminent execution on charges of ‘spreading corruption.”
Alf gets a big chuckle out of the Americans banging on about due process, because he is aware of how they have locked up lots of people in Guantanamo without much regard for due process.
Oh, and the French are kicking up a fuss too.
The French government condemned Iran on Friday for a series of press arrests and for the death sentences confirmed for two Iranian bloggers and Paris called for “the revision of these unacceptable decisions.”
A Foreign Ministry statement said that France is “extremely concerned about the situation of bloggers Saeed Malekpur and Vahid Asghari who have seen earlier death sentences against them confirmed in past days.
France also “condemned with the greatest firmness” a recent wave of arrests of journalists and denounced these practices as an attempt to control the press ahead of legislative elections on March 2.
France has called on Iran to respect the international commitments it has signed in the relevant areas of freedom of expression and freedom of the press.
Alf is sure the Iranian leaders will pay that request the same heed as it pays to all other bleats from the West for them to give up on whatever they are doing with that nuclear stuff.
The nuclear thing, as it happens, has got world leaders all wound up.
The death sentences for bloggers and round-up of journalists comes as Israel is urging the world to act quickly to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons, and the UN has urged the West to resume talks with the pariah state.
Moreover, in two days Iran’s parliament will debate whether to stop exports of oil to the European Union.
This would deny the EU a six-month phase-in of the embargo it decided should be slapped on Iranian oil as part of tough new sanctions aimed at forcing the curbing of its nuclear programme.
So what does Alf make of the media crackdown?
Actually, on occasions he is tempted to think he would conduct something similar here, if he was running the show.
That photographer feller who was involved in taping the PM’s conversation with John Banks certainly should have been locked up.
The same goes for the likes of Barry Soper, who have never paid Alf’s media statements the attention they deserve.
But death sentences seem a bit heavy, even for Bomber Bradbury, although a good question to ask is whether our society would be much better off without him, and at that point of the argument…