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Iran's Rulers Speak Of More Cyberspace Restrictions As Conditions Worsen

Head of Iran's Passive Defense Organization Brig. Gen. Gholamreza Jalali, undated.

Controlling social networks at the time of crises is a "must" that should "seriously be considered," says the head of the Islamic Republic's Passive Defense Organization (PDO), Brigadier General Gholamreza Jalali.

Jalali, who is a Revolutionary Guard general, made the remarks April 28 while visiting Bushehr, the home of Iran's sole nuclear power reactor, to supervise a drill labeled as "Radiation maneuver", without providing more details. Iran has witnessed scores of radiation drills in recent years.

Echoing repeated calls of the Islamic Republic's conservative authorities for more restrictions on using the internet in Iran, Jalali asserted, "During crises, social networks provoke people against the government and pressure the executive administration; therefore, it should be controlled."

On the same day, Iran’s Supreme Leader used the murder of a clergyman by a gun owner active on social media, to call for more monitoring and possible restrictions on cyberspace to safeguard the public.

As economic conditions worsen in Iran, people in the ruling establishment voice more concern about possible unrest. Experience of the last ten years show that social media can be used effectively to mobilize protesters in Iran.

International organizations have always blamed the Islamic Republic for strict censorship and filtering of the internet, as well as blocking social media sites, monitoring users and even arresting those who exhibit dissent.

Based on the latest report by Reporters Without Borders on media freedom around the globe, out of 180 countries of the world, Iran ranks 170th, dropping six points in ranking since the last survey.

The restriction is so damaging that even the Islamic Republic's President, Hassan Rouhani lamented last February that there are "no free media in Iran," adding, "We made a mistake by filtering (social media and other internet outlets)."

Nevertheless, it was reported nearly three months ago that the Rouhani Administration had decided to hold an "internet disconnection drill."

Attacking free access to the internet and social media is wildly spreading among the conservatives dominating Iran, as fear of unrest grows and their inability to enforce social restrictions becomes more evident.

"If cyberspace is not managed properly, the Islamic Republic's situation will deteriorate further," warned the Islamic Republic Prosecutor-General, mid-ranking cleric Mohammad Jafar Montazeri.

Meanwhile, an ultraconservative clergyman, officially recognized as Grand Ayatollah," Nasser Makarem Shirazi has labeled the internet and social media as "swamps" and an environment made for corruption.

"The reason behind most divorce cases and teaching misappropriate behavior is cyberspace and the temptations hidden in social media," Makarem Shirazi has insisted.