Thursday , 23 September 2021

Iran tightens control over social media, IRGC in charge of the Internet

Iran-HRM – Violation of freedom of expression through control and repression on the Internet is one of the main examples of human rights violations in Iran.  What we will certainly see increase in after the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, the death commission judge in Iran.

New Internet plan, violates freedom of expression

The plan to “protect the rights of users in cyberspace and organize social media” will be considered by the majlis in Iran.   

According to the Mehr state-run news agency, there is also a committee to monitor social media, of which the Ministry of Intelligence, the Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Organization and the SSF (the State Security Force) are part.

A summary of the plan, published by the state media, points to a significant issue: “Armed forces take over the management of the Internet”.

Accordingly, the management and monitoring of the Internet in Iran will be transferred to the Revolutionary Guards, not remain under the supervision of the Ministry of Communications.

An action that clearly shows a new circuit of Internet repression.

According to Hamideh Zarabadi, a member of parliament, “The content of this plan shows that it does not match the name chosen for it … We see the same thing in real space. They want to extend it to cyberspace and turn cyberspace into a security space that is also controlled by the armed forces.” (The state-run hamshahri online – Jun 30, 2021)

What is the 7th degree punishment (Ta’zir punishment)?

According to the plan “Protection of users’ rights in cyberspace and organizing social media messages”, if individuals and organizations have any activities in social networks or filtered media messages, they will be sentenced to 7th degree punishment known as Ta’zir punishments.

Ta’zir punishments are divided into eight degrees:

The Seventh Degree is as follow:

―     Imprisonment from ninety-one days to six months

―     Fine from ten million (10,000,000) Rials to twenty (20,000,000) million Rials

―     Flogging from eleven to thirty lashes

―     Deprivation from social rights up to six months

Tighter Online Censorship, ‘Military Control’ Of Internet

What can be seen from the provisions of this plan is the repression in the field of internet and cyberspace in Iran. The Islamic Republic of Iran has a long history of disrupting the internet as well as aggressive censorship of social media platforms during elections, the November 2019 protests which were violently repressed.

“Despite being banned, social media and apps such as Facebook, Twitter and Telegram play a major role in disseminating news and information in Iran. As well as blocking websites and messaging services, the authorities resort increasingly to Internet cuts to contain and suppress protests and block the flow of independent information regarded as “counter-revolutionary,” “subversive,” “anti-government propaganda,” “violations of national security” or “insulting to what is sacred.”

On November 20, 2019, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the suppression of the fundamental right to online news and information in Iran, where the Internet was completely disconnected on the evening of 16 November in response to major protests in more than 100 cities across the country.

“The Iranian regime must adhere to its obligations to respect international standards and put a stop to all digital discrimination”, the RSF reiterated.

Iran HRM calls for the principle of freedom of expression for all citizens in Iran and considers the new internet plan as a sign of the domination of the IRGC over all aspects of communication in Iran.

We condemn this plan and believe that the Iranian people should be able to have the right to freedom of expression.