Iran's Citizen Journalists Give Inside Look Online

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WASHINGTON -- In the past, brutal crackdowns by Iran's regime silenced protests before they could become too widespread. But those tactics haven't worked this time around, as the Iranian people have used technology to frustrate the Mullahs and reach out to the world. 

With its harsh application of Islamic Sharia law, the Iranian regime often seems as if it is trapped in another century.

The same can't be said of the Iranian people, 50 percent of whom are under the age of 25. This tech-savvy, young generation of Iranians is using blogs, Web sites, text messages and especially the social networking site Twitter to organize huge protest rallies and share images of the unrest with the outside world.

As the regime threatens to imprison any foreign journalists who report on the ongoing demonstrations, these Iranian citizen journalists have become a crucial source of information.

"It's helping get information out. That's very important because everything  in Iran is shut down. I mean since polling day, they've had no cell phone service, they've no text messaging," said Kelly Niknejad with Tehranbureau.com.

Iranian-Americans have also joined in. Iranians in Chicago are using Twitter to help organize protests in their home country.

"It's the only way that now we have to keep in touch with people here and to know what is going on there," Hamid Mehdizadeh said.

"They let everybody know what's going on. And that's how most of the rally on Monday was done," Azadeh Khastoo said.

The State Department has taken notice of the Twitter phenomenon. Department officials have asked the site to delay network maintenance so that Iranians could continue to use it to send messages, share information and mobilize.

But the Iranian regime has also noticed. Iran's powerful revolutionary guards -- an elite military force that answers to the Supreme Leader -- are threatening legal action against any Iranian who posts anti-government material online.

The regime has shut down social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace. But Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad has his own Facebook page, and Supreme Leader Ali Khameini is now using Twitter.

Their attempts to quiet the protestors are having little effect thus far, as new demonstrations are being planned for the coming days.

 

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Erick Stakelbeck

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Erick Stakelbeck is a sought after authority on terrorism and national security issues with extensive experience in television, radio, and print media. Stakelbeck is a correspondent and terrorism analyst for CBN News.  Follow Erick on Twitter @Staks33.