But technology, in the form of the internet and mobile phones makes this increasingly difficult. When a cold blooded murder of protestor by the state is filmed on a mobile phone, it is difficult to deny, especially when it appears on Youtube and is watched my millions across the planet. There is very little doubt about what sort of regime rules in Iran, but if you have any simply take a look at this web site which lists some of the people killed during the Summer protests in Iran. They died protesting against a rigged election - it's a sobering read - Iranian victims
You can see the Iranian Governments problem, the doubts becomes less, when their crimes are recorded and broadcast. So what do they do about it?
Well I'll tell you they set up an Internet Crime Unit, of course.
A 12-member team reporting to the chief prosecutor will scour websites with a view to pressing charges against those judged to be "spreading lies" and "insults" against the Islamic system.
Of course although they are described as an Internet Police force their focus is very much on the crimes of 'insults and the spreading of lies' . I think we can all guess where their main focus will be.
Iran already has one of the most aggressive internet filtering systems in the world, it is conservatively estimated around 10 million sites are now blocked. They even throttle high speed internet in order to discourage downloading any of the immoral content they have missed.
Of course they do have a lot of potential sites they need to block, human rights sites are obviously a concern, also social networking sites where people can talk to each other, blog sites, proxies, anonymisers. I suspect Iran would be much happier with the North Korean model of the internet which is basically everything blocked apart from a Government selection of about 40 web sites. I bet that's exciting, mind you it can be bypassed of course, you just have to be a high ranking government official.
I wonder if the Iranian Internet Crime Unit will look something like these. You may recognise these cheerful pair as the Jingjing and Chacha. They are the face of the Chinese Internet Police who go around 'encouraging good citizens' to use the internet responsibly and remind them they are being monitored. Oh and of course to encourage them to report other people who maybe breaking the law.
This is of course a very sinister form of internet surveillance, because all these countries are well aware of the technical limitations of content filtering. They know that people can use technologies like Identity Cloaker and TOR to bypass their blocks and allow anonymous surfing. It's basically just more intimidation, when technology doesn't work, the State will just resort to threats in the oppressive countries.