Iranians sympathetic to reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi, who lost his election bid against the incumbent president, fought back against a government crackdown on media by hacking official news websites Sunday.
Activists dissatisfied with what they say were fraudulent elections that saw President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad elected to a second term with a landslide 63 percent of the vote, organized a denial of service campaign through Facebook that appeared to have caused the websites of several official news agencies to crash.
The official IRNA and FARS news agencies websites could not be displayed for several hours in the morning, Press TV’s site delivered a server busy message while the official parliament site, Majlis.ir, gave an unending "still working" message.
The websites of IRIB, the official broadcaster, Sepah News, the Revolutionary Guard's newspaper and Kehan, the conservative government mouthpiece, were also unavailable.
A note posted on Facebook urged supporters dissatisfied with the vote results to download a file called “giveourvoteback” that would send requests to the various official websites effectively creating a denial of service because of too many server requests and crashing the sites.
Facebook, used by supporters of rival reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi to rally support, was blocked in the weeks leading up to the election and in the wake of post-election demonstrations. But Iranians at home, using proxies, and abroad fought back by causing the denial of service of several official government news sites.
The campaign came amid the third day of violent protests and a continued government crackdown on the media, especially foreign press.
Foreign media crackdown
Since the contested election results were announced Saturday, Iran has jammed satellite signals and the Internet, shut down Al Arabiya’s Tehran bureau and arrested several journalists.
Australian, Belgian, Canadian, French and Italian journalists have been detained or beaten and some of their equipment confiscated, Reza Moini, Reporters Without Borders Iran researcher, told Al Arabiya.
He said the crackdown on foreign journalists is “because they publish truthful information about what happened and the official media do not do so.”
Arab satellite station Al Arabiya was informed by officials Sunday that its Tehran bureau would be closed for a week and it would be prevented from broadcasting.
“Al Arabiya is worried about being banned from the chance to cover an important country like Iran during an important event like the elections and afterwards without explaining the reason behind that decision,” said Nabil Khatib, executive news manager of Dubai-based Al Arabiya.
The British Broadcasting Corporation said the satellites it used to broadcast BBC Persian television to Iran were being jammed and that a reporter and his crew were briefly detained after filming a post-election piece.
"BBC audiences in Iran, the Middle East and Europe may be experiencing disruption to their BBC TV or radio services today. That is because there is heavy electronic jamming of one of the satellites the BBC uses in the Middle East to broadcast the BBC Persian TV signal to Iran," the BBC said Sunday.
BBC World Service director Peter Horrocks said it "seems to be part of a pattern of behavior by the Iranian authorities to limit the reporting of the aftermath of the disputed election."
German public TV stations ARD and ZDF said their correspondents were prevented from the covering the protests, the largest in at least a decade.
"We see a breach of freedom of the press and democratic principles," the editors wrote.