Facebook and the CCDOC fog of war; Fake instruments played on TV; Updates from the Ministry of Culture and ICT

Analysis: Facebook and the CCDOC Fog of War

When the Rouhani administration took office in an environment of pressing foreign and domestic issues, hopes for a more free and open internet were widespread among the Iranian populace and international community. The debate over whether Facebook will be unblocked in Iran rages on with significant ambiguity regarding who has the final authority on the issue. Although members of the moderate Rouhani administration are advocating for more online freedoms, including national access to Facebook, Iran’s hardline conservatives believe Facebook should remain filtered.

Cartoon Roundup: January 20th, 2014
Cartoons commented on Facebook filtering, music censorship, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, and more.

Government Updates
Minister of ICT Mahmoud Vaezi announced that government representatives on the Committee Charged with Determining Offensive Content (CCDOC) now agrees that only anti-religious and immoral websites should be filtered. Websites necessary for public knowledge that do not contain corrupting content should remain accessible. Vaezi added that digital communication mobile applications are not illegal, and only problematic parts of an application should be filtered. Vaezi also rejected rumors that the CCDOC blocked free communication applications such as WeChat to prevent mobile operators from incurring financial loss.

Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati stated that officials and ministers no longer need the Ministry of Culture’s permission to do interviews with “foreign news agencies working inside Iran.” Jannati added that a new set of rules are being prepared to standardize news agency subsidy allocations across factors such as a newspaper’s circulation, publication period (e.g. daily, weekly, monthly), and area of distribution.  In a January 11th interview with Al Jazeera English, Jannati publically stated that the Iranian Judiciary should follow the Rouhani administration in expanding freedom of expression to Iranian media and artists, which  drew harsh criticism from Iran’s Prosecutor General and Spokesperson for the Judiciary Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi.

Acting as the head of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace, President Rouhani emphasized the importance of the National Information Network (NIN) and urged the Council to complete the technical studies necessary to complete the project. The head of the Information Technology Organization of Iran, Nasrollah Jahangard, announced the Ministry of ICT will welcome Chinese IT companies interested in helping Iran complete the NIN project and improve Iran’s IT industry.

Female Politician’s Speech Canceled
Last week, officials confirmed that head of Iran’s Environmental Department Masoumeh Ebtekar would not be speaking at Friday prayers, where she was slated to give a twenty minute speech in Tehran to mark Clean Air Week, an initiative promoting environmental awareness across the country, but was replaced by a male department colleague. While the reason for the cancellation has not been released, there is speculation that it is due to the taboo against women addressing crowds at religious ceremonies, Ebtekar’s political affiliation with moderate and reformist parties, or Ebteker’s health.

Band Plays Pretend Instruments on State TV
Protesting Iranian state-sponsored television’s ban on displaying musical instruments, the band Pallet performed a song on the program Radio Haft (Seven) with imaginary instruments. The IRIB's unwritten policy against showing both western and traditional instruments on the air is influenced by hardline religious thought.

 The band Pallet performing on state television with imaginary instruments.

Media Reluctant to Report on Challenges to Iran’s Sunni Community
In his most recent press conference, Molana Abdol-Hamid, the spiritual leader of Iran's Sunni community, stated that although no major improvements to religious and ethnic minority rights have been made, he is hopeful about the Rouhani government's future. While the press conference was widely reported among Sunni news outlets, national media agencies ignored the news entirely. According to a former MP from Sanandaj city, national media outlets are afraid to report on the Sunni community because reporters publishing interviews with Abdol-Hamid have been reprimanded in the past. The MP also criticized laws prohibiting the Sunni community from distributing its newspapers and broadcasting its television and radio stations nationally. 

Google to Attend Conference at Amirkabir University 
In March 2014 Amirkabir University of Technology is holding Iran Mob Code 2014, the first ever Android application idea contest in Iran. Two distinguished Iranian Google product managers, Leili Baghaei Rad and Ali Ajdari Rad, are invited to speak at the event, which aims to address the need for Farsi-language mobile applications, and educational applications, especially those geared towards children and teenagers. 

News of the Iran's Invitation Withdrawl from Syria Peace Talks Not in Iran's Tuesday Newspaper 
News of Iran’s invitation withdrawl to the Syria peace talks came to Iran in the early morning. Iranian newspapers had already printed their Tuesday editions with headlines explaining the condition of Iran’s participation in the talks, as seen on the Javan cover (below): “Iran’s invitation to Syrian talks in Geneva without any preconditions.” 


Youth in Iran: Inside and Out
Photographer Hossein Fatemi’s “An Iranian Journey” series showcases the private lives of Iranian citizens and breaks boundaries by publicizing even taboo activities, leading to backlash from the Iranian authorities against Fatemi and his representation, Panos Pictures.

Intelligence Minister Announces No Need for Media to Cover Economic Corruption
While speaking to Iran’s semiofficial Mehr news agency on January 14th, Iranian Intelligence Minister Mahmud Alavi stated that there is “no need” for the media to publish details of economic corruption cases. Alavi continued by stating that covering such cases, “affects investment’s security instead of counteracting corruption.”



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