The Telegram messaging application is the most popular mobile software in Iran, but it has always been on the verge of being blocked for various reasons.
Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi, Tehran’s prosecutor general, has announced that the Iranian judiciary has filed a lawsuit against the manager of Telegram, a decision that may be the first phase of new attempts at blocking Telegram.
Pavel Durov, who is called the Mark Zuckerberg of Russia, is a Russian entrepreneur and the manager of Telegram, which is headquartered in Berlin.
Dolatabadi stated Sept. 26: “A lawsuit has been filed against the Telegram manager, and this case has been referred to the International Affairs [section] of the Tehran Court.” Adding, “Telegram has become an appropriate platform for the activities of organized criminal groups, in addition to providing services to terrorist groups, including Daesh [Islamic State], and promoting child pornography, human trafficking and narcotics trafficking.”
On July 26, Abdolsamad Khoram Abadi, a deputy of Iran's prosecutor general, said, “Daesh carried out all its coordination for the terrorist attack on [Iranian] parliament through Telegram,” referring to the two terrorist attacks that were simultaneously executed on June 7 by five terrorists in Tehran, resulting in the deaths of more than 17 people.
In response to the lawsuit, Durov wrote on his Telegram channel Sept. 27, “Today, Iran joined the list of countries I can't travel to — Tehran's prosecutor just filed criminal charges against me there.”
With Telegram’s users increasing every day in Iran as well as its growing effect on Iranian society, officials in Tehran have become much more sensitive to it. While the Iranian government, headed by moderate President Hassan Rouhani, has strived to prevent Telegram from being blocked, the hard-line judiciary is pressing further to reach its goals.
Telegram played a significant role in Rouhani’s victory in the 2017 presidential election, as most of his followers and fans campaigned for him on Telegram. During the election, the judiciary — which was unable to block the political channels on Telegram — arrested the managers of a few pro-Rouhani news channels.
Among the judiciary’s demands, the most remarkable and essential request is to block political and news channels on Telegram, an issue that has been at the center of Rouhani’s and new Minister of Information and Communications Technology Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi’s disagreements with the judiciary.
Telegram itself has also avoided listening to Iran’s judiciary requests. Durov said Sept. 27, “More than 40 million people use Telegram in Iran, and we've never blocked a single political channel [in Iran].”
On Aug. 12, Jahromi told the Iranian parliament’s news agency a few days before gaining the confidence vote, “The Telegram managers have had the necessary cooperation over the cultural red lines of Iran; therefore, there is no need to block it.”
Moreover, on Sept. 16, Jahromi asserted that he was negotiating with the judiciary to unblock other services of Telegram such as voice calls. He also remarked that he was attempting to unblock Twitter, which has been blocked in Iran since 2009.
Viber was the most popular messaging application up until 2014 when it was blocked, leading millions of Iranian users to join Telegram.
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