Iran’s Culture Minister Ali Janati has opined that his country could not forever keep its ban on access to online hubs like Facebook. Interestingly, the remarks seem unimaginable during the administration before the current Iranian president Hassan Rouhani.
President Rouhani is known to be a more moderate leader since he took the helm in August. In fact, according to political analysts, it is his promised tolerance on social, media, and cultural issues that made him lure voters in the recent presidential elections. He practically vowed for more freedom, which many Iranians seem to prefer these days.
4 million Facebook users
Interestingly, it is estimated that there are now four million Iranians who have accounts in Facebook despite the fact that access to the social networking site is restricted in the country. Ironically, several government officials are also active on Facebook and other social networking Websites. For instance, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has close to 850,000 followers on Facebook. He also operates the solely ‘verified’ Twitter account in Iran. He even has a YouTube channel.
Other Iranian officials are known to be owning and maintaining accounts on Twitter and other social media sites. Even supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has Twitter and Facebook account and page that are exclusively dedicated to him.
Isolated from the rest of the world
Minister Janati said the Iranian government could not restrict the advances in technology ‘under the pretext of protection of Islamic values.’ It should be noted that in the country, access to most of the popular social networking Websites is obstructed through massive filtering mechanisms. This is because some Iranian authorities think the usage of those sites can be considered as immoral and ‘un-Islamic.’
However, it is also a common knowledge that several tech-savvy Iranians are resorting to anti-filters to possibly circumvent the existing media restrictions. To this, Janati said the current ban on online social media can be compared to the prohibitions in 1979 over the use of video players and fax machines.
Resistance from oppositionists
The Rouhani administration is presently facing resistance from hardliners who try to block reversal of policies that block online social media in the country. To date, a committee consisting of 13 members is determining what types of online content should be allowed on the Internet. The process, however, is ‘notoriously slow.’
Unapproved Websites are currently placed under the Iranian filtering system. This ban covers popular sites like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and several blogs.