Iran minister says ‘impossible’ to block information by banning apps

Authorities have sought to develop Iranian social media networks and limit reliance on foreign-based platforms. (AFP)
Updated 01 May 2018

Iran minister says ‘impossible’ to block information by banning apps

  • Telegram is the most popular social network in Iran with some 40 million users — roughly half the population
  • Authorities have sought to develop Iranian social media networks and limit reliance on foreign-based platforms

TEHRAN: Iran’s telecoms minister said Tuesday it was “impossible to block citizen’s access to information,” a day after the conservative-dominated judiciary banned the hugely popular Telegram messaging app.
Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi’s comments on Twitter highlighted differences of opinion between the government of reformist President Hassan Rouhani and ultra-conservatives who control the judiciary and security services.
“Even if we ban the use of software, other software will be found and information will start to circulate freely again,” Jahromi wrote.
“Technology is not intrinsically guilty, corrupt, or deviant,” he added. “It is human beings who misuse it to promote crime and corruption in the virtual world, just as they do in real life.”
A Tehran judge on Monday ordered the blocking of Telegram, the judiciary’s Mizan Online news agency said, following accusations that the app has allowed armed opposition groups to fuel unrest.
The move follows a presidential directive banning all government workers from using foreign messenger apps to communicate.
Built by Russian tech guru Pavel Durov, Telegram is the most popular social network in Iran with some 40 million users — roughly half the population.
During a wave of protests that hit dozens of Iranian cities early this year, authorities temporarily banned the app, saying it enabled foreign-based “counter-revolutionary” groups to stir tensions.
Since then, authorities have sought to develop Iranian social media networks and limit reliance on foreign-based platforms, which Tehran accuses of hosting sites hostile to the Islamic Republic.
The ban adds Telegram to the list of social networks blocked in the Islamic Republic but accessible via virtual private network (VPN) software which can circumvent Internet blackouts — something the judiciary wants to prevent in the case of the messaging app.
Monday’s announcement was followed by rumors Jahromi had resigned, but the semi-official ISNA news agency denied that.
“On the question of filtering (social networks), we said and repeated that this is not the only solution,” it cited him as saying. “The competent authorities heard our arguments and made their decision.”


Yemen’s UNESCO-listed Old Sanaa houses collapse in heavy rains

Updated 10 August 2020

Yemen’s UNESCO-listed Old Sanaa houses collapse in heavy rains

  • Distinctive brown and white mud brick houses of Sanaa’s historic neighborhoods have long been under threat from conflict and neglect
SANAA: Houses in Yemen’s UNESCO-listed Old City of Sanaa are collapsing under heavy rains, as months of floods and storms assail a country already reeling from war, food shortages and disease.
The distinctive brown and white mud brick houses of Sanaa’s historic neighborhoods, which date from before the 11th century, have long been under threat from conflict and neglect.
Muhammad Ali Al-Talhi’s house partially collapsed on Friday as heavy rain battered Sanaa, leaving the six women and six children of his family homeless.
“Everything we had is buried,” he said surrounded by ancient debris and mud, appealing for help to find shelter.
Aqeel Saleh Nassar, deputy head of the Historic Cities Preservation Authority, said citizens today do not maintain these old buildings as in the past, leading to cracks and weakness.
Around 5,000 of the towering buildings in the old city have leaky roofs and 107 have partially collapsed roofs, he said. The authority has been working with UNESCO and other funds to preserve some.
This year’s exceptionally heavy rains, which began mid-April and last into early September, have added to what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Five years of war have killed more than 100,000 people, and left 80 percent of the population reliant on aid and millions on the brink of famine.
On top of the new coronavirus, which is believed to be spreading largely undetected, heavy rains spread diseases like cholera, dengue fever and malaria.
The Iran-aligned Houthi authorities who have controlled Sanaa since ousting the internationally recognized Saudi-backed Yemeni government in late 2014, appealed this week to UNESCO to save the city’s heritage.
They said around 111 houses had partly or completely collapsed in recent weeks.
Sanaa resident Adel San’ani on Saturday told Reuters he saw five houses severely damaged this weekend.
“The families have no shelter. A local bank launched a campaign to distribute plastic sheeting to act as roofs,” he said.