- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 20, 2012

President Obama on Tuesday decried the “electronic curtain” that Iran’s regime has built around its people, saying that “technologies that should empower citizens are being used to repress them.”

“Increasingly, the Iranian people are denied the basic freedom to access the information that they want,” Mr. Obama said in a video message that was posted to YouTube.

“Instead, the Iranian government jams satellite signals to shut down television and radio broadcasts. It censors the Internet to control what the Iranian people can see and say.

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“The regime monitors computers and cellphones for the sole purpose of protecting its own power,” the president said. “And in recent weeks, Internet restrictions have become so severe that Iranians cannot communicate freely with their loved ones within Iran, or beyond its borders.”

In his annual Persian New Year greeting, Mr. Obama said the U.S. would “continue to draw attention to the electronic curtain that is cutting the Iranian people off from the world,” and he cited some of the efforts his administration had made to engage the Iranian people online, including through the State Department’s “virtual embassy.”

“Over the last year, we have learned once more that suppressing ideas never succeeds in making them go away,” he said. “The Iranian people are the heirs to a great and ancient civilization. Like people everywhere, they have the universal right to think and speak for themselves.”

The tough language is markedly different from Mr. Obama’s first greeting in 2009, when he did not mention Iranian repression and instead touted “engagement that is honest and grounded in mutual respect” with Iran.

Mr. Obama said Tuesday that “if the Iranian government pursues a responsible path, it will be welcomed once more among the community of nations.”

The five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany are preparing to resume talks with Iran about its secretive nuclear program.

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