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Prominent MP Brands Messaging App Telegram ‘Security Threat’

The chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s national security and foreign policy committee, MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi, has branded the popular messaging application Telegram “a security threat” in an April 1 interview with the parliament’s news agency, ICANA.

Boroujerdi had said previously that the government would ban Telegram indefinitely before April 20, adding the decision was made at the “highest level” of the government, a likely allusion to the office of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

He claimed that a percentage of security threats against Iran originate on Telegram.

Boroujerdi also said the United Kingdom, Germany, and Israel use the information stored on Telegram.

He further claimed that Telegram was used against Iran’s security during the widespread protests in December 2017 and January 2018.

“The final decision on banning Telegram will be made by the Supreme National Security Council,” Boroujerdi said.

Iranian media reported in early March that the Supreme Council for Cyberspace had met in Khamenei’s presence, adding that Khamenei was against lifting the temporary ban that was imposed on Telegram following widespread protests against political, social, and economic injustice.

State officials and Khamenei’s office have not commented on these reports.

Several MPs, including two other members of the national security and foreign policy committee, as well as a large number of social media users, have reacted to Boroujerdi’s comments.

Reformist MP Ahmad Mazani said Boroujerdi’s comments “insulted the parliament”; another reformist MP, Mahmoud Sadeqi, said banning a foreign application and replacing it with a substandard homegrown application would be “wrong,” while former hardline MP Hamid Rasai supported Boroujerdi and called for launching “a national information network.”

Social media users have expressed concern about the surveillance of homegrown applications by government agents.

Iranian media including the Entekhab news website and the Donyaye Eqtesad economic daily quoted IT Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi on April 1 as saying the Rouhani administration “will stand by its promises,” adding, “The

administration needs other bodies and institutions’ help.”

Iranian authorities banned social media platforms Telegram and Instagram for a few days and police arrested several cyber activists as protests raged in the streets of more than 100 Iranian cities in late December and January, but the ban was lifted once the demonstrations lost their initial momentum.

A number of state officials have said the ban on Telegram would ruin a large number of businesses.

MP Mohammad Reza Badamchi told reporters that banning Telegram would eliminate 200,000 jobs and disrupt the financial situation of about half a million people.

Telegram is one of the most popular social media platforms in Iran with more than 40 million users.