Iranians face new Internet curbs
Iranian officials denied any connection between the Internet disruptions and the upcoming vote.
May 22, 2013 9:45 by Reuters
Iranians are struggling with slower Internet speeds and limited access ahead of an unpredictable presidential election that has put hardline Islamist authorities on alert for possible unrest.
Experts and web users say they believe the Internet obstacles are related to the June 14 presidential vote, the first since 2009 polls in which accusations of fraud – denied by the government – kindled months of protests organised in part via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.
Iranian officials denied any connection between the Internet disruptions and the upcoming vote. But, after the disputed re-election of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad four years ago, they are wary of the possibility of further unrest this time around.
The last-minute entries of moderate former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and Ahmadinejad allyEsfandiar Rahim Mashaie have shaken up what was expected to be a limited race between hardline conservatives close to clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and hostile to Ahmadinejad.
The populist Ahmadinejad, who has fallen out with Khamenei, is limited by law to two consecutive presidential terms.
Iran’s Guardian Council was due to present a final list of approved candidates to the Interior Ministry on Tuesday. The ministry then has two days to announce the approved names.
The opposition website Kaleme reported on Monday that security had been heightened in Tehran, apparently to counter any protests should the candidacies of Rafsanjani or Mashaie be rejected by the council.
Iranian web users, who number some 45 million according to official figures, have grappled with increased obstacles to using the Internet since the 2009 election.
Kaleme said on Monday Internet speeds had dropped in much of Tehran and that in some parts of the capital, accessing the Web had become impossible – which would prevent dissidents from mustering protests online as they did after the 2009 vote.
Hamed, 33, a dissident freelance journalist living in Tehran, said his clients now have resorted to sending him files by loading them onto CDs and transporting them by courier.
“We get things done but with more time spent,” Hamed told Reuters via email.
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