Stories from Quick Reads and Iran
Iran's Minister of ICT Suggests Instagram Will Not Be (Completely) Blocked Until an Alternative Is Found
Iran's leading reformist newspaper, Shargh, ran an article this past Sunday entitled: “The promises of the Minister of ICT to clear the problems of mobile social media.” The focus of Iran's Minister of Information and Communication Technology Mahmoud Vaezi was the filtering status of popular mobile applications, with a particular focus on Instagram.
He told Shargh the following:
اصلا نگران نباشید. تصمیم مشخص ما آن است که فعلا برنامای برای محدودیت فعالیت شبکهای اجتماعی موبایلی نداریم و قطعا زمانی این موضوع را اعلام خواهیم کرد که جایگزیهای مناسبی برای این شبکها در داخل کشور ایجاد شده باشد.
You should not be worried. Our policy is that we will not restrict the activities of any mobile social media, and when we do announce it, it will be when we find an alternative for this network inside the country.
The popularity of mobile applications has led to some directives from institutions outside of the current administration's hands, such as the Judiciary for filtering. Shargh noted:
بعد از چندیبار تذکر از سوی نهادهای بالادستی به وزارت ارتباطات مبنی بر ارائه برنامای جهت نظارت هرچه بیشتر بر محتوای این شبک ها، «فیلترینگ هوشمند» به عنوان اولویت برنامای دولت مطرح شد زیرا واعظی وزیر ارتباطات معتقد است تمام آنچه از طریق این شبکها منتشر مشود، شامل محتوای نامناسب نیست، بلکه نزدیک به 90درصد مطالبی که روی این شب ها قرار مگیرد، جزء محتوای پاک است.
After a few warnings given to government by higher authorities, the ministry decided to use smart filtering, which will be the priority in the government’s program to monitor social networks, because [Minister for ICT] Vaezi believes all the materials published by these networks are not bad. Close to 90% of the materials publicized on these networks are clean materials.
Current smart filtering of Instagram pages means Iran-based mobile users are blocked from viewing selected pages.
Following the publication of this post, one Internet researcher, Amir Rashidi noted the Minister's statement regarding no viable ‘alternatives’ is a political form of appeasement between hardline elements (such as in the judiciary) and those who support more Internet freedom (such as the Rouhani administration). As noted in the Tweet below by researcher Nariman Gharib, Lenzor exists as a local Iranian alternative to Instagram.
@maasalan there is an alternative right now in Iran. Lenzor
— Nariman Gharib (@ListenToUs) April 12, 2015
— Amir Rashidi (@Ammir) April 12, 2015
Iran's Foreign Minister Javad Zarif penned a response to the letter 47 Republican U.S. Senators sent to Iranian leaders. The letter was in opposition to nuclear negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. Zarif was quick to pen the response, and tweet back to the Republican Senator Tom Cotton who originally tweeted the letter to Zarif, President Hassan Rouhani, and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) March 9, 2015
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 10, 2015
Soheil Arabi was sentenced to death for insulting the Prophet Mohammad on the Facebook.The Revolutionary Guards arrested Soheil Arabi on November 2013. Iranian Twitter user Velgard tweeted below about this, explaining that Arabi is only a 30 year old Iranian who is not a political activist, but merely “one of us.” Several bloggers and Facebook users were arrested in last twelve months.
— ولگرد (@_velGard) November 26, 2014
Iranians held several protest rallies in different cities including Tehran,Tabriz and Mehabad to support Kobane‘s people on Tuesday.Fighting continues to rage in the Syria-Turkey border town of Kobane
— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) October 7, 2014
Iran held the first annual Persian ICT week conference in Tehran's Ijlas center between August 30-31, 2014. The two day conference was a cooperative effort between Iran's ICT Guild Organization and the Arab ICT Organization. The theme of the conference was entitled, “Internet for Economic Growth,” and panels were held over the two days discussing youth using social media, the ICT industry post-sanctions in Iran, and the role of government in Internet development.
Many users followed the event on both Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #PersianICTWeek in English, and #هفته_فناوری_اطلاعات_و_ارتباطات_پارسیزبانان in Persian. Government representatives from many countries including Malaysia, Qatar and Lebanon were present at the event.
In a meeting that followed the event, Iran's Minister of ICT Mahmoud Vaezi and his Qatari counterpart Khatem Hesam Jabar, met to discuss cooperation between the two governments in developing both nation's ICT industry. According to Iran's semi-official Fars news agency, the minister wished to share with Qatar the merits of Iran's new national information network, a project that endeavours to create a countrywide network of websites assigned to domestic IP addresses, separate from the worldwide web. Many Iranian figures have suggested this will aid in the development of domestic ICT infrastructure and economy. Vaezi stated achievements were made in electronic banking, cyber security and information technology, and explained the network was one of the best ways forward in the new youth dominated Internet culture.
A large portion of the conference was focused on how Iranian youth were engaging in entrepreneurship within Iran's ICT sector, and the government's support of knowledge based industries amongst this new generation. This event preceded President Hassan Rouhani's September 1 televised speech, declaring the importance of the Internet for Iran's youth.
26 year old British-Iranian Goncheh Ghavami was arrested in Iran on June 2014 for protesting for equal access for women during sporting events. She was arrested after she attempted to attend a men-only volleyball match at Azadi Indoor Stadium in Tehran. International petitions have been ongoing for her release, until her release on March 31, 2015. Her brother Iman Ghavami posted on petition.org, where many had signed for her release of the news:
Mar 31, 2015 — I have big news for you.
Today I can tell you that Ghoncheh is free! As we were celebrating Iranian New year, Iranian Government wiped out the rest of my sister's sentence. Ghoncheh will not have to spend another day, another hour in prison.
This is amazing news and I wanted you to hear from me directly. You stood by us during those difficult months. You gave my family courage and hope. The uncertainty of autumn and the dark clouds of winter have gone. And the sun once again is shining for my family. Spring is here.
My mum has finally become her old happy self and has found peace again. My mum and I will not forget your generous support and thank you sincerely. Together we brought Ghoncheh home. Ghoncheh also asked me to thank you all for your support.
This has been the best spring for my family. Hopefully this spring brings happiness and peace to all Iranians and all of you.
London based Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad won the 2015 Women's Rights Award at the Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy for her Facebook page “My Stealthy Freedom” this past week. The page invites Iranian women to post pictures of themselves without a Hijab, in defiance of Iran's Islamic laws that enforce compulsory hijab. With over 750, 000 followers, this page has been considered something of social media movement for Iranian women.
Below is a video from her acceptance speech at the Summit:
Iranian judiciary has set a one-month deadline for Hassan Rohani's government to block or to control messaging applications Viber, WhatsApp and TangoMe.
— Sobhan Hassanvand (@Hassanvand) September 20, 2014
Iranian President Hassan Rohani said in a speech on September 1 that the Internet is vital and Iran “cannot close the gates of the world for the younger generation.”
The next day, two Grand Ayatollahs defended high-speed Internet a few days after another Grand Ayatollah warned about it.
IMPORTANT #Iran president Rouhani made a new speech defending internet & new technology with emphasis on youth – challenging conservatives.
— Negar Mortazavi (@NegarMortazavi) September 2, 2014