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Young Iranians use video to tell story

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Footage sent to BBC Persian TV from unconfirmed sources

The foreign media in Iran are facing sweeping restrictions, with official permission needed to attend or report on demonstrations.

With traditional forms of communication blocked, Iranians are using technology to keep the world informed about events.

Middle East political and security analyst James Spencer told the BBC: "As foreign correspondents find their work restricted and their visas curtailed, the ubiquity of the mobile phone... is coming to the fore.

Among the various impediments to reporting, there's a huge ongoing, informed and informative discussion in Iran between people who care deeply about what is happening there
Steve Herrmann

"The ability to send graphic, near live-time footage, often then uploaded to YouTube elsewhere, is an incredibly powerful tool.

"This raw imagery has little need for translation or editing, and often under-cuts the State's message, both in content, and by pre-emption."

He added that tags like "IranElection" on the social networking site Twitter have attracted huge numbers of "followers".

These tweets often reference a YouTube clip or a URL, thus further increasing the audience, he said.

A YouTube spokesperson said there had been an increase in activity for all types of videos related to the Iranian election.

You can find a list of some of the most popular websites where this material is being shared here .

'Cat and mouse'

People were turning to the video-sharing website to get the latest from people on the ground who had "uploaded their experiences live and in the midst of the action", the spokesperson added.

BBC Persian TV received scores of amateur videos after street protests against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's re-election last week.

The BBC is currently receiving around five videos a minute, with hundreds more appearing on YouTube, Facebook and other social networking sites.

Here, footage shows pro-government militia firing shots at a rally in Tehran.

This video shows students, some wearing masks, holding a secret rally at Tehran University, where they call on President Ahmadinejad to resign.

In another recording, a student at Tehran University claims he and other protesters were attacked by pro-government militia.

And an Italian journalist used his mobile phone to capture footage of police in Iran using their motorbikes to charge at protesters on Sunday, in a bid to break up a street rally.

A BBC Persian TV producer said most of the protest footage came from inside Iran but some was shot outside Iranian embassies in other countries.

"BBC Persian TV is being jammed by the Iranian government... but people are still sending us videos. They're just doing it," she said.

The channel's website has also been blocked with filters but people are finding a way to unblock them manually with anti-filters, she added.

Although communication is very hard inside Iran, people's e-mails are still working and that is how they are exchanging information," she said.

"BBC Persian TV's interactive programme is receiving about 3,000 e-mails a day, compared to around 100 a day before the elections."

More than half of Iran's population is aged under 25 and the BBC's Gavin Hewitt said this younger, internet-savvy generation was rocking the centre of power.

He said the hundreds of images captured on their mobile phones were telling the story of this crisis.

"The protesters are sending blogs and using messaging services like twitter - it's a virtual game of cat and mouse," he said.

"As the state tries to control access to the internet portals so the protesters are sending messages to each other on how to evade the government portals."



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