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Critics Say Some Persian Wikipedia Content Manipulated By Iran's Government


Wikipedia Senior Manager Arash Soleimani giving a speech at the 14th anniversary of Persian Wikipedia next to the image of Javad Zarif.December 2017

An Iranian human rights organization, Justice for Iran has called on Wikipedia and Wikimedia Foundation "to undertake serious measures to ensure authoritarian states, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, do not use Wikipedia as a tool for censorship, suppression and impunity."

Some of the Iranian Wikipedia contributors had previously accused some members of the Persian editorial team of systematically editing the texts in a way that the Islamic Republic's alleged crimes are not mentioned.

For instance, an entire section called "human rights violations" on the page about Mohsen Rezaei, the former Chief Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was removed by the editors. The contents included the general's name being added to the Interpol’s list of wanted persons in 2007 for his alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community center in Buenos Aires.

"What makes this example highly revealing is a 2013 addition of blatant misinformation to the Wikipedia page, claiming Rezaei’s removal from the Interpol’s list; which remains on his page to this date," Justice for Iran said in a statement on October 9.

Moreover, an event titled “Professional meeting on the application of Wikipedia tactics in communications”, held at Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance raised serious questions about the neutrality of the Persian editorial team.

Given the fact that the ministry is responsible for censorship in Iran, the following words by a member of the Persian editorial team was extraordinary:

“Let’s put it this way, these guys here play the role of Ministry of Guidance in Wikipedia. Meaning they can close one account, open another, give warnings etc. But they are even stronger than the ministry. They have the keys in their hands. It’s just like when the ministry prevents the publishing of a particular newspaper; so that it’s not automatically published.”

Social justice activist Sina Zekavat raised serious questions recently in an article entitled: Persian Wikipedia: an independent source or a tool of the Iranian state?

According to one of the Persian Wikipedia editors, Wikimedia Foundation has opened an investigation involving the September 2018 meeting between the Persian Wikipedia team and Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.

Wikipedia Foundation's mission statement says, "In coordination with a network of individual volunteers and our independent movement organizations...the Foundation provides the essential infrastructure and an organizational framework for the support and development of multilingual wiki projects and other endeavors which serve this mission. The Foundation will make and keep useful information from its projects available on the internet free of charge, in perpetuity."

It appears that there are about 30 authorized volunteer editors for Persian pages but the team does not have an overall coordinator or manager.

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    Kambiz Ghafouri

    Kambiz Ghafouri is a journalist at Radio Farda. His focuses Politics, Society and International Relations. 

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