Reporters Without Borders called on Iran on Thursday to halt discussions on an "anti-liberty" parliamentary motion that would restrict social media.
The organization, which internationally advocates for free media, said that the motion, entitled "Organizing Social Media," was presented to the presidium of Iran's Majlis parliament and is set to be delivered to its floor after being approved by the parliament's Cultural Commission.
If approved, RSF warned, the Iranian military would dominate the country's internet.
The motion, signed by more than forty lawmakers, includes fines and imprisonment for those who provide messaging apps without a license or reproduce and distribute VIPs and filter breakers.
Based on the parliamentary motion, a central body called the "Organizing Committee" will be set up, which will be tasked with licensing and overseeing the messaging apps. The committee includes members from the IRGC's fearsome Intelligence Organization, as well as law enforcement and the Passive Defense Organization.
The Iranian Minister of Information and Communications Technology, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, recently announced that he had changed course and accepted the General Staff of the Armed Forces' proposal to "develop some search engine infrastructure." He added, "Messaging apps are another important issue that the General Staff is helping us to manage."
The Paris-based RSF said the parliamentary motion would "completely curb Iranians' access to the internet, and deny them a free flow of information."
Despite the filtering of social networks and messengers such as Twitter, Facebook, and Telegram in Iran, these platforms have an essential role in disseminating independent information in the clergy-dominated country.
Out of 180 countries, Iran is ranked 173rd in the RSF's 2020 World Press Freedom Index.