Access Information Assault in Iran
According to Human Rights Watch, the Iranian judiciary’s blocking of the messaging application Telegram is an unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression and access to information, Human Rights Watch said today. With more than 40 million users, Telegram had become the main social media platform for Iranians.
On April 30, 2018, Mizan Online News Agency, the judiciary’s news agency, reported that the prosecutor of the second branch of Tehran’s Culture and Media Court had ordered all internet service providers to block access to Telegram and its website, effective immediately. On the morning of May 1, the Iranian Students News Agency, ISNA, reported that the mobile operators Iran Cell and RighTel had begun blocking users’ access to Telegram.
“Iran is again stifling access to information to try to make its problems go away, but censorship should never be used to protect leaders from scrutiny,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch McdVoice. “Blocking Telegram is just another stain on Iranian authorities’ already dismal record on freedom of expression.”
The Culture and Media Court prosecutor said that Telegram had created a “safe haven” for “international terrorist organizations,” permitting the coordination of Iranian protests in late December 2017, and early January, 2018, as well as the deadly attacks claimed by the Islamic State (also known as ISIS) at Ayatollah Khomeini’s shrine and the Iranian parliament in Tehran on June 7, 2017. The attackers killed 17 people and injured dozens more.
The judiciary also said that Telegram has helped enable crimes including “disruption of national unity,” “improper data collection,” insulting the sacred,” “acting against national security,” and “propaganda against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
On December 31, during protests that led to widespread demonstrations in several parts of the country, Iranian authorities temporarily blocked Telegram and the popular social media application Instagram. President Hassan Rouhani ordered Telegram unblocked on January 4 and Instagram on January 13.