Iran has blocked access to networking site Facebook ahead of a June 12 presidential poll, possibly to prevent supporters of leading opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi (sketch) from using the site to campaign, the ILNA news agency said.
AFP - Iran has blocked access to Facebook ahead of June presidential polls, allegedly to prevent supporters of the leading opposition candidate from using the site for his campaign, ILNA news agency said on Saturday.
"Access to the Facebook site was prohibited several days ahead of the presidential election," ILNA, considered close to Iranian reformists, said in reference to the June 12 vote.
An employee of an Internet service provider who requested anonymity said the ministry of communications and information technology had announced the decision.
There was no immediate comment from the authorities on the claims.
In the United States, Facebook said it had received reports its wesbite had been blocked in Iran, lamenting the apparent government bar as "a shame."
"We are disappointed to learn of reports that users in Iran may not have access to Facebook," the company told AFP in a statement.
Facebook said it was investigating the reports, and expressed disappointment that the globally popular social networking site was apparently blocked "at a time when voters are turning to the Internet as a source of information about election candidates and their positions.
ILNA reported: "according to certain Internet surfers, the site was banned because supporters of Mir Hossein Mousavi were using Facebook to better disseminate the candidate's positions."
One Facebook page dedicated to Mousavi has more than 5,200 supporters.
It contains biographical information on the candidate and a statement on his proposed policies, as well as photographs both of him and of his fans.
As is the case with any such Facebook page, there are also comments posted by fans, as well as one by the candidate himself, saying "Ahmadinejad's government has dishonoured Iranians across the world."
There are also a number of sites pages dedicated to Ahmadinejad but none of them appear to have backing from the president's campaign.
Mousavi partisans were already reacting to the cut, with some announcing alternative addresses to access Facebook.
"We need to let everyone know by email," wrote Parastoo Salamat.
Meanwhile, Payham Ebrahimi wrote: "we are waiting for a firm reaction from Mousavi."
Also vying for the presidency are former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai and ex-parliament speaker Mehdi Karroubi.
The final lineup was revealed on Wednesday by Interior Minister Sadeq Mahsouli as he announced the start of the official campaign to run until 24 hours before election day.
Iranian state-controlled television and radio have already been the focus of debate over whether candidates will get equal treatment.
On Friday, influential former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani urged the state-run broadcaster to "act justly and unbiased" in covering the campaign.
"Television and radio as the nation's sole broadcaster, gets its credibility from the people's satisfaction and trust. Therefore it should act justly and unbiased during campaigning days," Rafsanjani said.
Mousavi has already accused the television of "repeated and open breaches of neutrality."
And Karroubi previously accused it of biased coverage in favour of Ahmadinejad. The state media give comprehensive coverage of Ahmadinejad's tours and of his speeches.
Last Sunday reformist Iran daily newspaper Yas No (New Jasmine) was stopped from publishing a day after it returned to news-stands following a six-year ban, the ISNA news agency reported.
Facebook, founded in 2004 by former Harvard student Mark Zuckerberg, claims to have 175 million members worldwide. In Iran, the service is normally available in Farsi and in English.
Date created : 2009-05-24