Iran’s Rouhani condemns court order to block Telegram app

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Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani criticised the recent blockage of the country’s most popular messaging app, Telegram, saying the decision by the country’s judiciary is not supported by his administration.

In a post on Instagram Rouhani on Saturday clarified that the blocking of Telegram was not imposed by his government and that he does not approve of it.

On April 30, the country’s Culture and Media court ordered telecoms companies to block the messaging app that has about 80 million users across the country, after accusations that it threatens Iran’s national security and also allows to organise anti-establishment protests.

“If a decision has been made to restrict or block the communication of the people, the real owners of this country, which are the people, should be included in making such decisions,” he said. 

The statement also said that the blockage was “opposite to democracy”.

Iran’s judiciary is controlled by conservatives and the chief of the judiciary is appointed by the Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In a statement, Human Rights Watch also denounced the decision as an “unjustifiable restriction on freedom of expression and access to information”.

Facebook and Twitter are also blocked in the country but can be accessible by virtual private network (VPN) software, which can circumvent blackouts of banned apps.

The move by the judiciary to block Telegram was not the first such attempt by Iran’s conservatives to contain the influence of the application. In early 2017, a number of reformist channel administrators were arrested and later received prison sentences.

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in mid-April that he would no longer use Telegram, and would instead shift to a homegrown app Soroush that boasts most of the features found in Telegram.

Over the past few months, Telegram has been in legal battles with the governments of several countries.

Besides Iran, the messenger app was also recently blocked in Russia because the company refused to hand over its encryption keys to Russian security services.

Handing over these keys would allow the government to read all messages sent on the platform, violating user privacy.

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