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Cyberattacks Target Radio Farda Journalists

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Radio Farda journalists have been targeted with sophisticated online attacks, part of Iran's campaign against independent media.

An Iranian campaign against independent media that resulted in the recent arrests of more than a dozen journalists in Tehran has reached journalists outside the country, including as many as 15 Radio Farda journalists who have been targeted with sophisticated online attacks.

Like their counterparts at the BBC and other international media, at least three Radio Farda journalists have been the subject of fake Facebook profiles and blogs that post false and even scandalous information with the aim of discrediting them. Radio Farda’s Facebook page, which has more than 300,000 fans, has also been hacked.

"These attacks against our Radio Farda journalists are unlawful and show the lengths to which the Iranian regime will go to prevent a free and independent press," said Kevin Klose, acting RFE/RL president. "We are undeterred as they continue their attempts to intimidate our journalists, and we will continue to report the news."

Radio Farda journalists have also suffered synchronized attacks by Trojan horse viruses, which come cloaked as legitimate e-mail correspondence or attachments that, when opened, can mine the user's computer for contacts, passwords, and other sensitive data. In some cases hackers have used the data to pose as Radio Farda contacts and attempt to communicate with radio employees.

"It’s ridiculous,” said Radio Farda Editor-in-Chief Niusha Boghrati. "We believe this is the work of Iranian security agents. Although we can’t prove it, it is in line with their goal of undermining Radio Farda. And of course it won’t work."

The cyberattacks expand the tactics the regime has deployed against Radio Farda in the past and appear to be part of an official effort to engineer Iran’s information landscape in advance of presidential elections this June. Last spring, RFE/RL documented at least 20 attempts by authorities to intimidate Radio Farda journalists through interrogations and threats against family members in Iran. Radio Farda broadcasts are frequently jammed, and its website is officially blocked.