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In Ongoing Debate, Iran’s Police Chief Appears To Shame Iranian Officials Who Use Social Media

Iran’s police chief called out officials who “crossed red lines” by using banned social media networks — a direct assault on the Iranian president and foreign minister who each have a popular online presence.

1. On Monday, Iran’s police chief criticized Iranian officials who use social media, Mehr news agency reported, reigniting domestic debate on Tehran’s de facto ban on popular websites like Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Omid Memarian

@Omid_M

“Facebook Still Filtered”, the main headline of Etemaad Daily in #Iran, making the social media ban a big discussion

/ Via

“By violating the law (themselves), the officials should bear in mind that their actions should not pave the way for others to violate the law,” Police Chief Esmaeel Ahmadi Moghaddam said, according to the Agence France-Presse.

3. Moghaddam’s comments were interpreted as a direct affront to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zari and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who have become world renowned for their Twitter diplomacy.

Omid Memarian

@Omid_M

#Iran’s chief of police criticized .@JZarif 4 using SM websites:”It’s not a good thing that officials use things tht r forbidden 4 citizens”

/ Via

4. Iran currently blocks access to social media sites, though an estimated 2 million Iranians use VPMs to bypass the ban and access Twitter and Facebook.

Negar Mortazavi

@NegarMortazavi

#Iran FM @JZarif facebook fans sky rocketed to 750K only in 4 months. Most popular facebook is pop singer Ebi 1.7M.

/ Via

The police chief’s comments were the latest in an ongoing public conversation in Iran.

Last month, the country’s minister of culture and Islamic guidance, Ali Jannati, called for the legalization of social media. Jannati does not have the legal authority to remove the restrictions, but his comments were widely covered in the Iranian press.

This week, judiciary spokesman Gholam Hossein Mohseni Ejeie reportedly insinuated that Iran would consider allowing access to Facebook if the network complied with Iran state censors, according to an Iranian human rights group. The official IRNA news agency quoted Ejeie as saying that his department opposed Facebook, as it “promotes corruption and prostitution and publishes articles against public chastity.”

Iran prosecutor Ejei: Facebook is illegal, content violates chastity norms and security of country, site not be unblocked until this changes

— Thomas Erdbrink (@ThomasErdbrink)

Thomas Erdbrink

@ThomasErdbrink

Iran prosecutor Ejei: Facebook is illegal, content violates chastity norms and security of country, site not be unblocked until this changes

/ Via

7. Iran’s recent nuclear deal has raised some hopes for future reforms. Rouhani is described as a moderate in the Iranian political context. His pragmatic embrace of social media is often cited as a sign of his tilt toward a more liberalized Iran.

Rouhani hiking without his clerical robes. (he looks taller as a cleric)

— Arash Karami (@thekarami)

Arash Karami

@thekarami

Rouhani hiking without his clerical robes. (he looks taller as a cleric)

/ Via

8. @HassanRouhani (the president’s official account) retweeted this lighthearted photo a few days ago after an interview with the Financial Times.

So how come you can tweet and @ft can't? A lighter moment : http://t.co/AWmhw7ssMw

— Lionel Barber (@BarberLionel)

Lionel Barber

@BarberLionel

So how come you can tweet and @ft can’t? A lighter moment : http://t.co/AWmhw7ssMw

/ Via

The Financial Times reported on the context:

Asked how he could have a Twitter account (and a very active one) when the site is one of many that are blocked in Iran, he deflects the question with humour.

“You can do it even now,” he tells his visitors, as the hall packed with aides erupts into laughter. Then, shifting to a serious tone, he suggests that this is the kind of problem that he should be able to resolve soon.

10. The pressure is on: To mark Rouhani’s 100th day, Iranians created this mash-up of a popular speech in his honor. It was widely shared on social media.

#Rouhani fans imitate #Obama Emmy winner video Yes We Can; both on inauguration speeches http://t.co/BpitamC2p6 #Iran

— Ali Reza Eshraghi (@AlirezaEshraghi)

Ali Reza Eshraghi

@AlirezaEshraghi

#Rouhani fans imitate #Obama Emmy winner video Yes We Can; both on inauguration speeches http://t.co/BpitamC2p6 #Iran

/ Via

11. Rouhani tweeted the YouTube link too.

Humbled by this heartwarming video -- thx to artists&my ppl for making it possible. I remain committed to my pledges https://t.co/Hyxapo96rA

— Hassan Rouhani (@HassanRouhani)

Hassan Rouhani

@HassanRouhani

Humbled by this heartwarming video — thx to artists&my ppl for making it possible. I remain committed to my pledges https://t.co/Hyxapo96rA

/ Via

12. So did the foreign minister.

https://t.co/LDMHvNR1Zj

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif)

Javad Zarif

@JZarif

https://t.co/LDMHvNR1Zj

/ Via

13. But grave problems persist. A recent story in The Guardian reported that press restrictions have declined since Rouhani’s election, but the press still operates in a climate of great uncertainty where the “red lines” of what is fit to print and post lie.

The prominent tech wesbite Narenji.ir shut down by authorities & all it's staff arrested, no comm by the govt. #Iran

— Omid Memarian (@Omid_M)

Omid Memarian

@Omid_M

The prominent tech wesbite Narenji.ir shut down by authorities & all it’s staff arrested, no comm by the govt. #Iran

/ Via

14. Disturbing reports of arrests and executions in Iran also continue to make headlines.

.@AmirTatalooT an underground musician arrested in Tehran #Iran by the moral police, acc to ISNA via @kambizhosseini

— Omid Memarian (@Omid_M)

Omid Memarian

@Omid_M

.@AmirTatalooT an underground musician arrested in Tehran #Iran by the moral police, acc to ISNA via @kambizhosseini

/ Via

Meanwhile, Rouhani continues to battle with conservatives in Iran who oppose his political platforms. Earlier Tuesday, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad invited Rouhani to a public debate over what Ahmadinejad called “baseless and unfair accusations” that he is largely responsible for the country’s economic ills. Rouhani has reportedly accepted the invitation, according to a chief advisor quoted in Al Monitor, “with the condition that the former president accepts the condition of observing the truth.”

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