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The Debate Over Twitter Continues In Iran

The minister of Communication in Rouhani's cabinet, Mohammadjavad Azari Jahromi, undated.

Twitter in Iran is blocked for national security reasons, and not because of moral and cultural concerns, Iran’s newly appointed minister of Information Technology and Communication (ITC), Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi declared on Monday, august 21.

Azari Jahromi, 36, the youngest member of Rouhani’s new cabinet also revealed, “ITC has not been behind filtering Twitter, therefore it is not up to the ministry to unblock it”.

Meanwhile, he admitted, “It is not right to say that we can end filtering Twitter since the entity behind the decision has done it for [its own] considerations”.

However, the new minister did not elaborate on the meaning of “considerations” or the identity of the entity behind it.

“Nevertheless”, he said, “We should discuss unblocking Twitter. We will do our utmost to reach an appropriate conclusion”.

Iran blocked the site, along with Facebook and YouTube, after mass protests and violence over the controversial 2009 re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

While admitting that he has an account on Twitter and tweets, Azari Jahromi praised the application, saying, “Twitter is a proper tool for public diplomacy, communicating with people around the world and commenting on various topics”.

Referring to a popular social media facility, Telgram, Azari Jahromi cautioned, “It is not a proper and logical strategy to limit our social media to Telegram, since it is only used by people inside Iran”.

Meanwhile, the state-owned IRAN newspaper quoted Jahromi on Tuesday as saying Twitter has “officially announced its readiness to talk with Iran for resolving” the issue of blockage.

San Francisco-based Twitter declined to comment, AP reports.

Iran blocked the site, along with Facebook and YouTube, after mass protests and violence over the controversial 2009 re-election of hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace, headed by current President Hassan Rouhani, is officially in charge of blocking websites. That council is overseen by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. However, government officials often comment that some internet filtering or jamming of satellite and radio signals are done by “other” agencies; suggesting the undeclared role of security agencies.

An example of a Khamenei tweet. the Supreme Leader actively uses Social Media while it's blocked and illegal for the public.

Earlier, on August 15, the chairman of the task force for pinpointing Internet Crimes, Abdus-Samad Khorramabadi had declared, “Membership in filtered social media outlets is against the law, for they have legally been blocked by the judiciary”.

“Disregarding the judiciary’s decision”, Khorramabadi insisted, “Is unacceptable”.

Khorramabadi also warned, “The ministry of Communication and Information technology’s staff are responsible for implementing the judiciary’s orders for blocking Twitter, therefore, their membership in any filtered social media outlet is against the law. There’s no discrimination, here”.

Previously, the commander of Iran’s Cyber Police (The Police for the Sphere of the Production and Exchange of Information, or FATA, in Persian), Kamal Hadifar had labelled Twitter as “a tool for terrorist activities”, emphasizing, “Twitter will stay blocked in Iran”.

A Rouhani Urging an open Social Media policy:

Nonetheless, the Office of the Supreme Leader, the President, the minister of Foreign Affairs and many more other officials in the Islamic Republic are frequent users of the Twitter.

Insisting that the Justice Department does not seek shutting down cyberspace, Prosecutor General, Mohammad Javad Montazeri asserted, “Cyberspace and cellphones have taken people as young as five years old hostage, while its harmful effects have been widespread”.

Twitter, alongside Facebook, is among the most important social media outlets that the Islamic republic’s ruling system has filtered and does not let people to have free access to them.

There are currently scores of Internet activists and website creators who have been arrested by the government and are now behind bars in Iran.