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December 11, 2003Only 240 sites! Aaron Scullion asked President Khatami : "Will you pledge uncensored access to the internet or publish a list of sites deemed unacceptable?"
The President replied: "The BBC, Voice of America and other American sites will not be censored in Iran. Many things that are contrary to the policies of Iran are available in Iran. Even opposition websites are available. We are exerting greater control over pornographic and immoral websites that are not compatible with Islam. And even some political sites that are very insulting to religion. But we are not censoring criticism. Criticism is OK.
"The numbers are very few - it's only porn sites. (Asks Minister of ICT for a precise number) Altogether 240 sites, the Minister tells me. The majority are porn sites, not political sites. We hope to have a world where morality will prevail and we will not have to censor any sites."
Aaron pushed Mr Khatami to justify the comments he made on Wednesday - telling the summit's plenary session that a key requirement of a knowledge based society was a commitment to "principles of democracy".
"Democracy without free flow of information, and without access to the thoughts of others, is not possible - democracy runs in tandem with freedom of expression. This does not mean that everything goes. I think many Western countries will not allow fascists or nazis or racists to say whatever they think. Stopping such ideas does not mean restriction of freedom - freedom of expression and freedom of thought are the preconditions of a democratic society - but at the same time, freedom does not mean chaos, or the absence of law and order."