Iran Authorities Threaten Radio Farda Listeners Via SMS

by Sampsonia Way    /  November 26, 2011  / No comments

The government in Tehran is doing its best to stamp out free thinking through text messages.

“Dear citizen, based on information we received you have fallen under the influence of the anti-security propaganda of media connected with foreign powers.”

“If you establish contact with media based outside the country, you will be guilty of violating the following articles of Islamic law (…) and we will deal with you according to the law.”

Listening to Radio Farda in Iran is no idle pastime.

The audience for Farda, RFE/RL’s Persian-language service, has to contend with a host of threats from the regime in Tehran, which looks to punish its own citizens for listening to free media. The government’s extreme censorship is nothing new in the annals of authoritarianism. But Tehran is upping the ante by making its warnings high-tech and personal.

The government’s latest way of cheerfully informing Farda’s most active listeners of the risk they’re running is through SMS (text) messages directly to their mobile phones. The messages carry the menacing threats shown above.

Remarkably, despite the intimidation, Farda’s listeners continue to send hundreds of SMS messages daily from all over Iran, risking imprisonment in Iran’s notorious jails, where thousands of political prisoners serve terms and fear secret executions.

These SMS messages are tracked by the Iranian government on a daily basis, according to Mardo Soghom, a senior media market research analyst for RFE/RL.

“We have noted that when the SMS numbers drop to 30-40 a day, which was the case nine months ago, it was due to these text message warnings sent by the Iranian government,” says Soghom.

Constant jamming by the Iranian authorities has not succeeded in discouraging Radio Farda’s journalists, who are officially banned from the airwaves in Iran but continue to broadcast news, features and music in Persian, 24 hours a day.

‘Radio Is Only Radio Farda’

The work of Radio Farda broadcasters is encouraged and validated by the messages sent in from listeners, who often pass along the slogan, “Radio is only Radio Farda.”

Reza, a listener from Kermanshah, recently sent a text message to Radio Farda’s SMS service that read, “All of us are listening to Radio Farda, with the hope for a better Iran tomorrow.” The message played on Radio Farda’s name, which means “Radio Tomorrow” in Persian.

Others write to talk of the unmet promises of Iran’s revolutionary regime. “When the revolution happened, they were blaming the Shah for selling the oil cheaply,” one listener says. “Now, they are not only selling oil and gas, they are even exporting the ‘soil’ of this country and they call it non-oil sector exports.”

For Radio Farda’s journalists, the most rewarding messages are usually the simplest. Writes a listener from Ghazvin, “Long live the one who established Radio Farda.”

To find out more about what is happening inside Iran, read the news in Farsi (or English) on Radio Farda’s website and visit Persian Letters, a blog maintained by RFE/RL senior correspondent Golnaz Esfandiari. Her work is dedicated to uncovering under-reported stories and delivering insight and analysis from bloggers, feminists, clerics and even Basij members inside Iran.

This article was originally published in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

About the Author

Sampsonia Way is an online magazine sponsored by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh that seeks to protect and advocate for writers who may be endangered, to educate the public about threats to writers and literary expression, and to create a community in which endangered writers thrive and literary culture is a valued part of life.

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