IRAN (OBSERVATORY) – Iran banned on Wednesday the government agencies to use the popular Telegram messenger, and the administration of the supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei reported that his account will be closed with the goal of ensuring national security, the Iranian media reported.
The ISNA news agency does not explain the reasons for the ban on the use of the service, which numbered about 40 million users in the Islamic Republic. The order came in a few days after Russia, Iran’s ally in the Syrian conflict, began blocking the application on its territory, following numerous refusals by the company to provide security services access to user messages.
The Iranian administration has forbidden “any government agencies to use a foreign messenger,” ISNA reports. Khamenei stopped using Telegram on Wednesday “in order to ensure national interests and stop the monopoly of Telegram’s messenger,” the state media reported.
The supreme leader actively uses social networks, even Twitter and Facebook, which are blocked in Iran. His administration updates the accounts, posting new photos and recent performances. Telegram, created by a Russian businessman and ranked 9th in the list of the world’s most popular instant messengers, was widely used by Iranian state media, politicians and companies.
“In the interests of protecting national interests and fighting the monopoly of the Telegram network, the page for saving and publishing the works of the great ayatollah in this network will cease to work from this moment,” the message said. Telegram users are invited to read the messages of Khameni in the messengers Soroush and Gap Iranian development. A week earlier Khamenei stated that the violation of privacy in the network is “haram”, that is, it is unacceptable from the religious point of view.
This week, a representative of the judicial authorities said that Telegram and other foreign messengers can work in Iran, subject to obtaining government permission and storing user data inside the country.
In the fall of 2015, the Iranian authorities blocked Telegram because the messenger’s leadership refused to “restrict access to certain immoral content.” However, a week later the lock was removed. Then the Iranian authorities decided to control the users of the messenger: at the end of 2016 an order was introduced according to which channel owners with an audience of 5 thousand users were required to pass state registration and receive permission to conduct the channel.
Iran temporarily blocked the service in January, when security forces tried to contain anti-government protests in more than eighty cities. Many Iranians then continued to use Telegram, circumventing the ban through the use of virtual private networks (VPNs) and other tools.
Iran is the most active user of the Telegram messenger in the world, it has been signed by 40 million people from the 80 million population of this country. For comparison: in Russia the number of Telegram users is estimated at 10 million people. In total, about 200 million users are instant messenger clients.