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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 September, 2004, 21:32 GMT 22:32 UK
Iran's blocked websites resurface
By Sebastian Usher
BBC world media correspondent

Emrooz website
The Emrooz website has reappeared in rudimentary form
Three Iranian reformist websites blocked more than a week ago have re-emerged at different internet addresses.

Their temporary disappearance has been blamed on the hardline conservative establishment in Iran trying to prevent the expression of any political opinion opposed to theirs.

With the broadcast media in the hands of the state and controlled by hardliners, and most of the reformist and independent press harried into submission by bans and closures, the internet had become a vital source of communication for Iran's reformists.

It, too, has been targeted, with websites forced to close and independent bloggers silenced.

Alternative view missing

The three sites that were blocked last week - Emrooz, Rooydad and Baamdad - were the main outlets for the reformist party, the Participation Front, which is led by Mohammed Reza Khatami, the president's brother.

The loss of these sites meant that a key source of alternative news and commentary in Iran was no longer available.

Now, all three sites have reappeared - to some extent.

One is using its weblog address, another an old internet address that had not been blocked, and the third has a completely new address.

What they all have in common is a stripped-down, temporary look, compared to their previous appearance.

Mohammad Reza Khatami
Khatami, the president's brother, is leader of the Participation Front
There are no longer any bylines or pictures, except for one of Mohammed Reza Khatami.

This may in part be explained by reports that some of the staff on the original sites have been arrested.

Despite the technical shortcomings, the sites seem to be regularly updated and continue to catalogue reports of abuses of power by conservative hardliners.

One news item in Baamdad from a few days ago reports on moves to try to dissolve the Participation Front, while another reports on threats to a singer by a radical Islamic group.

As for their own situation, one report on the Rooydad site says that one of the government's senior legal officials has said the blocking of the websites will be investigated, in response to Mohammed Reza Khatami's letter of protest.


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