Judicial Official Refuses to Lift Iran’s Ban on Twitter Despite Growing Use by State Officials
After several state officials called on President Hassan Rouhani to make Twitter accessible in Iran, a hardline judicial official has said doing so would be a “crime.”
In May 2018, Telecommunications Minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, Education Minister Mohammad Bathaei, Intelligence Minister Mahmoud Alavi, Justice Minister Alireza Avaie, Science Minister Mansour Gholami, Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Abbas Salehi, as well as two Members of Parliament (MPs), Ramezanali Sobhanifar and Mohammad Kazemi, signed a letter urging Rouhani to lift the state’s ban.
In response, Prosecutor General Mohammad Jafar Montazeri revealed that he had refused to participate in a meeting with the six cabinet ministers and two MPs to discuss the issue.
“After we shut down these networks via the Working Group for Determining Instances of Criminal Content (WGDICC), suddenly these six ministers write to me and ask to meet to lift the filter,” Montazeri said at a conference in Tehran on August 15.
“But I didn’t go because if I did, I would have been an accomplice to a crime,” he added.
A day earlier, Abdolsamad Khorramabadi, the WGDICC secretary and deputy prosecutor general, had reiterated his opposition to unblocking Twitter.
“The WGDICC has no authority to nullify judicial rulings,” Khorramabadi said in an article published by the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) on August 14. “Therefore, unblocking Twitter will not be on the WGDICC’s agenda. Twitter will not be unblocked.”
Rejecting Telecommunications Minister Jahromi’s criticism of the judiciary for upholding the ban, Khorramabadi said, “The esteemed prosecutor general has formally written to the minister to explicitly point out that his request to unblock Twitter is illegal.”
“It’s worth contemplating why this illegal request is repeatedly being made and constantly being raised by the media,” he added. “If some think that by mentioning an illegal action over and over again in the media they can remove legal the legal obstacles, they are mistaken.”
Twitter was banned in Iran in 2009 during the mass protests that erupted against the disputed result of that year’s presidential election.
In the past two years, many Iranian officials and lawmakers have joined Twitter, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, President Rouhani, many members of the president’s cabinet, and even senior officers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The newest member of Iran’s ruling establishment to join Twitter is Abbasali Kadkhodaei, the spokesmen for the Guardian Council, a powerful state body of six clerics and six jurists that vets laws and elections for conformity with Islamic principles.
“In the spirit of Journalism Day… from this day on I will be at your side in providing faster information and raising more awareness among journalists and the dear people by expressing existing points of view,” he wrote in his first tweet on August 13.