When Hassan Rouhani became President of Iran, most Iranian users and media talked about the easing of Internet censorship under Rouhani’s government. Previously, I have written a short post and explained when we can expect users to have unrestricted access to social network websites.
Rouhani has now been President of Iran for more than 5 months and his policies on freedom of expression in Iran are becoming clearer especially after two recent incidents: The arrest of IT specialists by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the blocking of some mobile apps such as WeChat.
These kinds of incident have highlighted an important point which most media both inside and outside the country have missed which is actually the answer to the title of this post: “Does Rouhani really support freer Internet?”
All evidence points to the fact that Internet freedom is not the President’s primary concern and he does not wish to act on it. For instance, Rouhani and his government have not said anything about the crackdown on the IT specialists directly or indirectly, or when the WeChat app was blocked by Iran’s Filtering Committee, only one out of six government representatives disagreed with the filtering decision whereas Mahmood Vaezi, the Minister of Information and Communications Technology (ICT), said the government disagreed.
Despite Rouhani’s claim, he does not seem to support freedom of expression. He just talks about it without acting on it. This means the priority for the President is not to improve the situation of the Internet in Iran although non-Iranians think it should be his concern.
For this reason, the answer to the question “Does Rouhani really support freer Internet?” must definitely be No based on the current evidence, although we can hope the President will change his policy and move from saying find words to putting them into action.