Derakhshan made a lot of enemies when he started justifying the Ahmadinejad regime in 2008. But I remember the excitement in Iranian circles when he figured out how to use blogger.com (founded in 1999) to blog in Persian and then taught others. Blogging became a huge cultural phenomenon in the Iranian youth culture, deployed by young women as well as men because of the anonymity it afforded. He became known as “blogfather” (pedar-i blog) in Persian.
His sentence reminds us that the internet is just a communications medium. Just as people have been jailed by authoritarian regimes for pamphleteering, so they have been jailed for blogging.
Whatever the fickle character of his politics, he did not deserve this, for mere speech.
As speech is increasingly criminalized in the United States (see for instance this report about ‘material support’), we should be vigilant or we American bloggers will end up like blogfather. Like Derakhshan, who was jailed in part for ‘unsavory’ foreign contacts, an American blogger who went to Lebanon and advised Hizbullah to adopt nonviolent tactics could be jailed, according to the US Supreme Court, especially the weaselly John Roberts– who is not very different from his Iranian counterpart.