China to help Iran build 'new national internet'
Establishing a new Iranian national intranet will form part of a long-term 25-year strategic partnership between Iran and China, an Iranian parliamentary official told a pro-reform website on Tuesday.
Mohammad Saleh Jokar, a prominent lawmaker, hailed the planned economic cooperation between Tehran in Beijing in the technological field.
Speaking to Entekhab, he said that the document outlining Iran and China’s proposed partnership covered details of Iran's national intranet, under the title of "cooperation between Iran and China for development of cyberspace".
The draft of the Iran-China accord was reportedly approved by the Iranian cabinet last month, rousing deep disdain among critics of Hassan Rouhani’s government as well as opponents of the Iranian regime.
The document's clauses allegedly include plans for China to aid Iran in building an intranet, following years of government efforts to roll out a "national network" separate from the internet.
Iran has a history of heavy-handed internet censorship. Facebook, Youtube and Twitter are blocked in the country, according to Radio Farda, despite officials' prolific use of the platforms as propaganda tools.
Cyberspace in Iran has emerged more generally as a battleground for ruling authorities. Hardliners have been obsessed with regulating social media - a place where anti-regime sentiments can inspire real-world dissidence.
A research center in Iran last May estimated that nearly 190 trillion rials (approximately $4.5 billion) had been spent on the creation of national intranet in Iran.
Last week, Iranian lawmakers submitted a motion to replace all 'foreign' messaging apps with Iran-made ones.
The bill, signed by 40 MPs, punishes anyone involved in distributing unlicensed social messaging apps, describing prison terms of up two years for violators, and fines of nearly $2000.
Last March, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) named Iran’s cyber policing body among 20 of the world’s worst governmental and non-governmental silencers of social media usage.