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You Are The Media. Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C. Friday May 14th 12:00 - 1:00 LIVE WEBCAST. By: Iran Davar Ardalan. IRAN 2010. You Are The Media. New Media in Iran Social Media Burst of 2009 Impact on Journalism “Democratizing” The Media Persianverse

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you are the media

You Are The Media

Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington D.C.

Friday May 14th 12:00 - 1:00 LIVE WEBCAST

By: Iran Davar Ardalan

Ardalan: You Are The Media

iran 2010
IRAN 2010

Ardalan: You Are The Media

you are the media3
You Are The Media
  • New Media in Iran
  • Social Media Burst of 2009
  • Impact on Journalism
  • “Democratizing” The Media
  • Persianverse
  • Imprisoned Journalists
  • Cyber War
  • Iran’s Tech-Savy Generation

Ardalan: You Are The Media

reformist new media in iran
Reformist New Media in Iran
  • Iran primed for 2009 social media burst
    • 2001 Hossein Derakhshan writes blogging manifesto
    • 2003 Government clamps down
    • 60,000 active Persian blogs*
    • Persian 4th largest language on the internet
    • 2004 Government begins arresting bloggers
    • 2005 Nasrin Alavi’s writes “We are Iran: The Persian Blogs”
      • Bloggers are disillusioned, blog of politics, media, life
    • 2006 Iran Cybercrime law
    • 2008 Nov. Hossein Derakhshan “Blogfather” arrested in Iran
    • 2008 facebook/twitter platform for politics, human rights
    • June 13, 2009 government blocks cellphones, twitter, facebook, youtube.

* Source: Berkman Center for Internet & Society

Ardalan: You Are The Media

islamic blogs dominate
Islamic Blogs Dominate
  • An Islamist blog is a blog on which Islamic or political Islamist values or beliefs play an important role.
  • 2005 Proliferation of Islamic blogs after Ahmadinejad
  • Blogs offer an insight into the evolution of the Islamic Republic's power structure, its ideology, its interests, and its conflicts.
  • Office for Religious Blogs Development (ORBD) This office has a project to help every religious student get a blog
  • The Muslim Bloggers Association (MBA) is a conservative association. The founders of this association are in their early 20’s. On their website they state that they are the voice of Iran’s underprivileged.
  • They have launched a Muslim bloggers’ committee to fight against secular bloggers and to promote their ideas. To become a member of this committee, you must be a Shiite Muslim and you must believe in the Islamic Republic.
  • MBA want to create a virtual international presence and believes in the cause of Hezbollah but not Hamas (per their writings)
  • MBA opposes secularism and liberalism in Iran. It wants to export revolution and it is extremely anti-American and anti-Israel.
  • The number of anti-Semitic blogs is relatively small but they have direct or indirect connections with the State and some news sites.
  • Source: Hamid Tehrani, Global Voices Contributor November 2007 posted on George Mason University’s History News Network

Ardalan: You Are The Media

social media burst june july 2009
Social Media Burst June-July 2009
  • Tweets, emails, photos from frontlines by reformist journalists, bloggers, citizens
  • Unprecedented direct communication
  • Teamwork among techies, journalists, citizen media

“Forward this to your Friends: You Are The Media” became a communication tactic for the Opposition.

“It prompted activists to act on their convictions -- and not to wait for guidance from a "leader," be it Mousavi or someone else.”

- Scott Peterson, Christian Science Monitor April 2010

Ardalan: You Are The Media

social media burst
Social Media Burst

Foreign media are barred from the streets but citizens on mobile devices continue to document rallies

Ardalan: You Are The Media

neda s death on youtube
Neda’s Death on YouTube

The unnamed people who filmed and publicized the shooting death of Neda Agha-Soltan during the protests were awarded the George Polk journalism award.

Ardalan: You Are The Media


Source: NPR News June 28, 2009

Poetry in Iran One Tweet at a Time, Davar Ardalan

Ardalan: You Are The Media

impact on journalism outside of iran
Impact on Journalism Outside of Iran

Mark Memmott, NPR Blogger on the bursts of information from citizen media in Iran:

“They affect our journalism by giving us new ways of getting around government filters, of sampling information, of seeing what’s happening in places where we can’t be. That said, they also open us up to some dangers - manipulation, especially because it’s often difficult to verify the credibility of that information. So it’smore important than ever for us to only say what we know and be very transparent about what information we do have and what we do and don’t know about it.” - April 2010

Ardalan: You Are The Media

impact on journalism outside of iran11
Impact on Journalism Outside of Iran

Scott Peterson, Middle East Correspondent

Christian Science Monitor:

  • “For a Western audience, ‘you are the media’ provided a new perch from which to see and understand events in Iran--events that strayed very far from the government's narrative that protests were caused by a few troublesome rioters bent on regime change. The spread of information this way gave a new, edgy and visceral view of the violence on the streets that the government could hardly deny--The case of Neda Agha-Soltan a crucial example. It has proven a gold mine for journalists in the West. Often the collated view of events achieved outside--using this new media--was far more complete than could have been achieved by any single journalist on the ground in Iran.” 
  • Journalists must be very careful when relying on social media for reporting, when they cannot confirm or observe events for themselves. But in Iran the sheer scale of the images and news that reached beyond Iran's borders were in many respects self-reinforcing and self-validating, when certain actions were recorded from several different angles at once.

Ardalan: You Are The Media

impact on journalism lessons learned from iranelection
Impact on Journalism: Lessons Learned from #iranelection
  • Authentication of sources
  • Confirmation of fact
  • Context and explanation of raw data
  • Transparency - what we know what we don’t know
  • Experimenting with digital cameras and citizen journalism in other parts of the world

Ardalan: You Are The Media

impact on journalism inside iran
Impact on Journalism Inside Iran

Views from Iranian journalists, bloggers, twitterers inside Iran and outside of Iran on post-election events and the impact on journalism.

  • We witnessed a revolution in Iranian journalism as we weren’t beholden to the government sponsored media to get the news of rallies, protests, etc.
  • Citizen journalism found it’s calling
  • Iranians had more of an appetite for news because of social media tools
  • Through YouTube, Friendfeed, facebook and twitter citizens uploaded their photos, texts and informed the world and Iranians what was happening LIVE. People had different sources to turn to.
  • The news I was able to post on twitter gave fuller context to events
  • Reporters from the reformist camp began posting anonymously
  • After the elections, with the arrest of many journalists, human rights activists took on a more prominent role in publicizing the news
  • But we felt the affect of not having real journalists on the ground to witness events as sometimes there was too much information and we weren’t able to discern fact from rumor across social media.

Ardalan: You Are The Media

democratizing the media
“Democratizing” The Media

Some 20 million Iranians are online but with limited access to the internet

Ardalan: You Are The Media

mehdi yahyanejad of balatarin com
Mehdi Yahyanejad of

( is a popular Persian website similar to and was a networking destination during Iran’s June 2009 elections)

  • With all the limitations and censorship in Iran, it takes a blogger 72 hours to get his/her important news to the entire nation. A detailed article with a juicy title will be picked up on Facebook or Balatarin in less than a day. On the second day, journalists who work for BBC Persian TV or VOA and monitor social media read the story and broadcast it. One the third day, the taxi drivers deliver the news to everybody else.
  • Iran is not mysterious country anymore. Any important story is discovered almost right away thanks to the social media.
  • In Iran, state-owned newspapers are becoming increasingly irrelevant for the educated elite. Almost all the journalists are bloggers and publish the more important stuff on their personal blogs.
  • Thanks to social media, anything important in Iran can be discovered and read widely as long as someone dares to publish them online. Iranian government's ability to keep abuses secret has been significantly diminished.

Ardalan: You Are The Media

roozbeh mirebrahimi
Roozbeh Mirebrahimi

(Roozbeh Mirebrahimi is a prominent Iranian journalist and blogger. In 2004, he was one of the first bloggers arrested and jailed in Iran. He is now living in NY City)

  • I was one of the first Iranian journalists on facebook and was active in figuring out how to use facebook as a news destination for Iranians online.
  • We realized how effective facebook was in the US Presidential campaign leading up to 2008. This was the most important year in Iran for cultivating citizen journalism.
  • Citizens were instrumental gathering information but they also needed the tools to create networks for their campaigns. When there is a need Iranians get creative and use any tools at their disposal to make things happen.
  • In Iran today, we have a population that is very much alive and hungry for knowledge and awareness. Any and all anti-filtering tools and simple news gathering software should be made available to help Iranians continue their dialogue across social networking and mobile sites.
  • Social media technologists should take into consideration Iran’s slow internet access and create software and other anti-censorship tools accordingly so that citizens can continue uploading videos, photos and text.
  • Through the internet, Iranians have been able to crush the government “monologue” and create a “dialogue” we are on our way to “democratizing” the media and have been in the process for the past 10-15 years.
  • With the new media we are in effect “practicing” democracy.

Ardalan: You Are The Media

a source in iran
A source in Iran
  • “What is our duty these days, is to try to cover all parts of Iran with non-violence teachings and our friends are doing it with SMS. Only some 30% have computers and a much lower percentage have access to fast internet or even dial-up internet. But everybody has a mobile phone. This shows how important S.M.S is... The educated people want a gradual change. They have opened the eyes of the world but they should have started opening the eyes of the poor and not educated before doing it for the world." 

Ardalan: You Are The Media

imprisoned journalists
Imprisoned Journalists

“Journalism has now become the most dangerous profession in Iran.”

- exiled Iranian journalist Fereshteh Ghazi

  • Committee to Protect Journalists says 35 journalists and bloggers are currently imprisoned in Iran more than any other country in the world
  • 18 journalists were free on short-term furloughs but must report back to prison
  • The Islamic Republic of Iran now ranks alongside China as the world’s biggest prison for journalists
  • Reporters Without Borders says we are seeing the largest exodus of journalists from Iran since 1979.
  • Hundreds of Iranian journalists are now refugees in Turkey, Malaysia, Paris and the United States

“Journalists who remain in Iran are in grave danger and live under threat and fear each day. Some are now taxi drivers, others are street vendors but they refuse to give in to the State and compromise their integrity and independence as journalists. Others continue to post news updates anonymously or through their contacts outside of Iran.”

Fereshteh Ghazi, exiled Iranian Journalist living in Atlanta, GA.

Ardalan: You Are The Media

cyber war
Cyber War

Iran’s Cyber Army hacked and defaced Twitter in December 2009

Part of the message read: “U.S.A. Think They Controlling And Managing Internet By Their Access, But They Don’t, We Control And Manage Internet By Our Power, So Do Not Try To Stimulation Iranian Peoples…

Ardalan: You Are The Media

access to the internet from sources in iran
Access to the internet: from sources in Iran

Proxies rarely work in Iran. They have often been difficult but after the elections they have become more problematic. For example, you can open the first page, but then can’t go into any of the links on the sites. So now people are using programs such as freegate (which is limited) or ultrasurf or puff. These programs allow you to bypass filters. People also use VPN’s, but recently there was a major crackdown on those providing VPN’s inside Iran and many have been arrested.

Ardalan: You Are The Media

cyber response
Cyber Response

Beating the Iranian government’s filters

  • The United States has approved the export of anti-filtering technology to Iran. Austin Heap, Executive Director of the Censorship Research Center in San Francisco says, “Now we can launch our efforts to help those in Iran access the Internet as if there were no Iranian government filters.”
  • In a statement on his website Developer Austin Heap explains how the software works, “The program, called Haystack, uses a sophisticated mathematical formula to hide the users’ real Internet identity while allowing them to access websites blocked by Iran’s government, such as YouTube, Facebook, Gmail, and Twitter, which have served as important mediums of communication for Iranians.”

Ardalan: You Are The Media

iran s tech savy generation
Iran’s tech-savy generation…

Observations based on a New Media forum at Columbia University in April 2010 attended by prominent Iranian-American journalists, Iranian activists, scholars and students.

  • The Digital space is allowing Iranian youth to redefine themselves.  The new generation of youth in Iran have no inhibitions
  • The new generation of activists in Iran have a greater level of TEAMWORK.
  • The new generation of activists are newcomers to politics, majority were politicized post-election, now feel confident they have power. They also have SOCIAL demands.
  • The new generation of activists want Iran to have a good relationship with the world
  • The new generation of activists have more of a chance to bring democracy to Iran 
  • Self-censorship in Iran among journalists is a problem. Working journalists do this so they can keep their jobs but in effect they are limiting others 
  • The importance of mobile tools and creating social media portals/platforms where Iranians and Americans or other countries can talk freely and exchange cultural dialogue - not for the purpose of changing the government but to learn from one another.
  • Need more investment in satellite internet & widespread mobile devices for the purpose of educating about civil society
  • Need Mobile Journalism Persian software to publish text, photos, videos instantly

Ardalan: You Are The Media


Iran 2010

Iran Davar Ardalan on

Ardalan: You Are The Media