Iranian President Hassan Rohani has criticized Iran’s judiciary over the prosecution of the country’s telecommunications minister after he allegedly refused to block Instagram and impose restrictions on other foreign social media and messaging platforms.
Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi was summoned for prosecution last week but Rohani, seen as a moderate, challenged the Islamic nation’s judiciary during a cabinet meeting on January 27, saying that while a lack of control on content is wrong, the “closure” of social media is also misguided.
“If you want to try someone, try me,” he said, noting that improving Internet bandwidth in Iran was done on his orders.
“These days, the Internet is like oxygen for people…to want to restrict it would be absolutely wrong…. How else can we expect people to do everything from home and teach their children online during the pandemic?” he asked.
Jahromi has been released on bail. His prosecution is seen as part of a political struggle between moderates and conservative hard-liners ahead of the presidential election in June.
Hard-liners in the Iranian parliament, judiciary, and other powerful bodies have long viewed social-messaging services as part of a “soft war” waged by the West against the clerical establishment that is responsible for “social immorality” in the country.
Many websites and social-media platforms are blocked in Iran, including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram, but the restrictions are ignored by many Iranians who access them via proxy VPN services.