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Rabkin in WSJ: Mobilize Anti-Censorship Efforts in Fight Against Tyranny

The Obama Administration should take aim against tyranny in Iran by offering technology-based initiatives to help thwart government censorship, says Professor Jeremy Rabkin, writing in The Wall Street Journal.

Recent coverage of Iranian crackdowns on democracy protesters highlighted the extent to which the Iranian government has attempted to block the flow of images and information from Iran to the outside world. Inaccessability of the Internet, limitations on bandwidth, blocking of social networking sites and proxy servers, and crackdowns on outside media are some of the methods Iranian officials have resorted to in recent weeks in order to repress the Iranian people.

Rabkin suggests that the U.S. can help Iranians combat censorship by going around it, smuggling data through it, or knocking it down. Bypassing government-supervised phone networks by using satellite telephones, deploying anonymous and censorship-resistant communication, and launching electronic attacks on the censorship system to disrupt and disable it are some of the ways by which the U.S. and others might achieve those goals.   

Let's Help Iranians Beat the Censors, The Wall Street Journal, July 17, 2009. By Jeremy Rabkin and Ariel Rabkin.

Excerpt:

"Early in the crisis the State Department did ask Twitter to delay a scheduled downtime. But since then the Obama administration has remained notably passive. It doesn't have to be. We have no obligation to help Ahmadinejad keep his people cut off from the world. To the contrary, international human-rights law -- which the new State Department legal adviser, Harold Koh, has often insisted is fundamental law for the world -- is quite clear on this point.

"Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights stipulates that 'Everyone shall have the . . . freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers . . . in writing or in print, in the form of art or through any other media of his choice.' Iran is a party to this human-rights convention, as is the United States.'"

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