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Iran Considers Death Penalty for Bloggers, Russia Jails One

The beauty of the Internet is getting to say exactly what you want in a public forum, right?(Well that and stalking ex-boyfriends and shopping at work, but I digress.) The ability to speak one's mind in bytes and blips has landed one blogger with a jail sentence for extremism. A Russian man who called the local police “scum” and calling for the clean-up of the force he blogged that the police should be burned in the town square twice a day. For this posting, was convicted of “inciting hatred or enmity” and given a one-year suspended sentence.

Free speech activists said the ruling is creating a dangerous precedent: “This was an absolutely unjustified verdict ... This verdict means it will be impossible to make rude comments about anybody.” News of the sentence permeated Russian blogs yesterday leading some to say, "I don't know now if I should be writing here or not." For his part, new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has said he prizes free speech and that Russia should use a light touch when policing the Internet. That's not the case in Iran. To see what's happening there, read more.

In Iran, they have a somewhat different interpretation to "light touch" — the death penalty. Their parliament is debating a bill that would call for death for anyone “...establishing weblogs and sites promoting corruption. . .” Though the government itself will decide what would constitute “promoting corruption." Among other death sentence crimes in Iran are apostasy (leaving a religion, in this case Islam), prostitution, rape and armed robbery.

No word on the world's reaction to the ultimate crime against blogging — starting one and then never posting again.

Is cyberspace the next battleground for free speech? Can speech on the Internet be protected as a vital outlet for those in countries with state-controlled media or oppressive governments?

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