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Despite the Iranian government’s tight media restrictions, FRANCE 24 -- like several international news organisations -- has been relying on reporters in the field as well as a growing band of ordinary citizens on the ground to cover the aftermath of the June 12 presidential election.
With an estimated 60,000 to 100,000 active blogs registered in the country, Iran is an exceptionally wired country – especially by Middle East standards. The Iranian government estimates that about 21 million of Iranians – or 28% of the country’s total population – has access to the Internet.
It’s a cyber savvy Internet base that has reached out to FRANCE 24 in recent days, providing reactions and testimonies as well as images and amateur video footage of the pro-opposition demonstrations that have rocked the capital of Tehran.
Most of the reactions from Iran coming in to FRANCE 24 were from supporters of opposition candidate Mirhossein Mousavi, who has contested the results of the election.
Six days after the disputed election, there was a tone of desperation creeping into some of our readers’ reactions.
A reader who identified himself as “Reza” provided a list of communication blockages Iranians have been facing for nearly a week. “From one night before the election in Iran, Iranian people have not had: SMS, access to websites of supporters of Mir Hosain Mousavi, mobile connections…access to BBC Persian service and also access to many journals,” he wrote before adding a plea to FRANCE 24 to tell the world about the situation in Iran.
Looking to the international media to discover the situation at home
There were growing signs that Iranians were relying on the international media to give them an idea of what was happening in their country.
“I demand FRANCE 24 to give news coverage about the unrest in Shiraz,” writes an anonymous user in the southwestern Iranian city of Shiraz. “Also, I've heard that there has been unrest… in the cities of Tabriz, Orumiyeh, Esfahan, Zahedan, Ahvaz and other cities.”
The government’s media restrictions however have made it difficult for foreign reporters inside Iran to cover the aftermath of the election.
While the overwhelming majority of the reactions from Iran are from Mousavi supporters, FRANCE 24 has received a few reactions from supporters of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has been declared the winner of the presidential election.
But they were not from our readers and viewers inside Iran. An unidentified viewer in Tunisia called the Western media’s coverage of the election “paternalistic” and an attempt to denounce the moral authority of the Iranian authorities. Another reader in Egypt said he believed the Western media was biased since it was afraid that Ahmadinejad presents a threat to Israel.
But reactions from within Iran displayed a mounting sense of desperation that history had provided Iranians with an opportunity that had to be seized now, before it was too late.
“This is pretty much our last chance to make the dictatorship bow to the people's will,” wrote a reader who identified himself as Babak from the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad. “All Iranians should pay extra attention to a painful fact: should the government get away with this current crackdown, we will all witness an era of black oppression and will have to say goodbye to Internet and satellite access permanently.”