Subtext | Instagram and Iran
The government and the judiciary are locked in a battle over Instagram
One big thing: the Reformist’s Minister of ICT, Jahromi, wants to give more access to social-media and the Hardliners controlled judiciary wants to check-mate him, block Instagram.
President Hassan Rouhani has thrown his full weight behind young Minister of ICT Jahromi, who has been pushing for more access to social media and blocked the judiciary’s attempts to block Instagram (Twitter, Facebook and YouTube are blocked in Iran). Last week, Jahromi was summoned by a Tehran court investigating into a number of accusations, including his “failure to implement judicial orders on banning the social media platform, Instagram.”
Why it matters: Instagram is used by nearly two-thirds of the population, one of the highest levels of usage in the world, and a ban on Instagram would affect more than 1 million people who are earning a living through small businesses on the platform.
Between the lines: the judiciary’s decision was rooted in the political rifts with Rouhani government over governance, cultural issues, and national security concerns (real and imagined).
In 2018, Jahromi blew the whistle on powerful financial entities that had pocketed millions of dollars by misusing government subsidies granted to cell phone imports and he’s been projecting the image of an avant-garde, anti-corruption crusader in the ICT (Information and Communications Tech’) ministry. His persistent efforts to open up Iran’s restricted social media has kept him under the spotlight, and he has serious political ambitions.
Jahromi has no authority to lift the ban on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube but he has managed to keep Instagram open despite being relentlessly chased by the prosecutor-general armed with a court order. And now, the opposition (Principlists) controlled parliament is attempting to pass legislation to force a ban on Instagram.
What they’re saying: Rouhani government spokesman Ali Rabiee described the minister’s brief interrogation as “not a judicial or administrative process”, hinting at political maneuver by the hardline opposition.
Rouhani has repeatedly praised his young minister for “the great job” at the ICT ministry and his technology initiatives in customs controls, thus boosting the “fight against corruption.”
What’s next: the public opinion is strongly against banning Instagram but if the opposition controlled parliament passes a law banning it, then Jahromi will be forced to comply. If the US re-enters the Iran Deal (JCPOA) and ends the sanctions regime, the hardliners may be forced to retreat and leave Instagram alone, for now!