July 24, 2009

Senate Adopts Measure to Counter Censorship in Iran

Cross Posted from www.niacouncil.org

Washington DC – Last night, the Senate voted unanimously to adopt legislation that aims to aid the ability of the Iranian people to access news and information by overcoming the electronic censorship and monitoring efforts of the Iranian government.

The Victims of Iranian Censorship (VOICE) Act was introduced by Senators John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT), Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Robert Casey (D-PA) as an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act.

“The world has been astonished and inspired by the courage of millions of Iranians pressing their regime for nothing more than their inalienable rights,” said Senator John McCain.  “The Iranian government has taken numerous steps to stop these citizens from communicating with each other and with the outside world.  As this cruel regime works to close off Iranian society, the VOICE Act, by providing assistance for broadcasting and new internet and communications technologies, will help to open it up.”

The VOICE Act provides $30 million in additional funding to the Broadcasting Board of Governors to expand Farsi language broadcasting into Iran and to develop technology to bypass the Iranian government’s efforts to block radio, satellite, and Internet access.

The Act also declares that the US Congress “respects the sovereignty, proud history, and rich culture of the Iranian people,” and establishes the policy of the United States “to support the Iranian people as they seek, receive, and impart information and promote ideas in writing, in print, or through any media without interference.”

Other facets of the act include $20 million for a new “Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund,” which will support the development of technologies that will aid the ability of the Iranian people to gain access to and share information.

The VOICE Act also requires the President to list all non-Iranian companies that have assisted the government of Iran’s efforts to monitor and censor internet usage. In addition, it authorizes $5 million dollars to be spent collecting and disseminating information about the status of human rights in Iran.

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