Blogging promises its more ambitious practitioners a chance to influence multitudes. For some there may even be a measure of renown. But as they begin to reach audiences comparable to those of traditional journalists, bloggers are also finding that they face some of traditional journalists' problems.
Repressive governments figured out fairly quickly that weblogs could be as threatening as the conventional press. In recent months, in addition to arresting several reporters, Iran's fundamentalist regime has blocked access to hundreds of dissident blogs and other political sites.
Now come threats of murder from equally repressive freelancers. An Iranian-Canadian blogger named Hossein Derakhshan wrote in November that the blog Islamic Army "has threaten [sic] a big list of Iranian blogger [sic] for their 'insults' to Allah, Prophet Mohammad and other Shia Imams." Derakhshan, who maintains blogs in English and Farsi, noted that Islamic Army has "picked particular posts from my Persian blog, in which they think I've insulted the God, and other sacred concepts of Islam and therefore, quoting from a Quranic verse, I deserve to be killed."
There are many names on the threat list, but Derakhshan is at the top. Although he writes from the seeming safety of Canada, incidents such as the brutal murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh in Amsterdam by an Islamist extremist suggest his concern is warranted.
Still, Derakhshan isn't sure if the threat is serious. He even asked his readers, "What do you think?" Most of them suggested he go to the Mounties.?