Friday, March 14, 2014

Liberals And Conservatives Clash Over Iran's Internet Control

(Pic courtesy AP)


The conservative hardliners and the more liberal moderates in Iranian President Hassan Rowhani’s government are divided over how closed they can keep the internet. The differences are part of a larger issue of balancing the distribution of political power between the liberal and conservative wings of the regime.

Rowhani and his supporters favour selective dismantling of restrictions to the internet and to information in general. The conservatives however believe it will clash with Islamic values.



“We cannot restrict the advance of [such technology] under the pretext of protecting Islamic values,” Ali Jannati, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance was quoted by The Washington Post as observing at a meeting with Iran’s chamber of commerce. The Post said he had described Iran’s post-Revolution attempts at controlling the information, including the internet, as “ridiculous.”

Among the restrictions are government licensing of newspapers, books and film as well as content control. The Post said that moves to issue licences to reporters however had resulted in 400 journalists writing to the government in protest.

The tug-of-war between the conservatives and liberals is also seen in the announcement some weeks ago that Iran was going to set up its own internet which it described as “clean internet” and for which it had enlisted China’s help.

In an article on February 12, in The US News and World Report, Mark Eades said that Iran had announced recently that it had received Chinese help “to implement its closed ‘National Information Network’ or ‘clean Internet.’”    

Praising China for its “four decades of good experiences in the application development services for information technology,” Iran’s head of internet and communication technology Nasarollah Jahangard said. “We hope to use these experiences.”

The words of Jannati and Jahangard delineate the stark difference in outlook between the conservatives and liberals. 

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