Iranian presidential candidates demand end to Twitter censorship
Iranian presidential candidates have jumped on the issue of social media restrictions, in an effort to win voters over, with traditionally conservative candidate also shifting position.
Conservative candidates on the campaign trail have expressed their opposition to the online blocks, with Saeed Jalili describing the filtering of Twitter as "unjustified".
Globally popular social media applications such as Facebook and Twitter have been blocked or filtered in Iran since 2009.
With Iranians set to go to the polls on 18 June, hopeful candidates have been attempting to build support, but in light of the curbs on social gatherings due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many candidate have moved activities online.
By my count, all 7 candidates in Iran's elections now have Twitter accounts:— Ali Vaez (@AliVaez) June 3, 2021
Twitter is, of course, banned in Iran.
During a recent radio interview, Jalili, the former deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator under Ahmadinejad, said that if he were to win, he would issue "a series of rulings" that would remove all filters from Twitter "on day one".
"In my opinion, cyberspace is one of the best opportunities for today's generation…30 or 40 years ago, this opportunity did not exist," he told state radio.
Not to be outdone, current presidential frontrunner Ebrahim Raeisi joined Twitter for the first time this week, and in interviews on television and radio, he outlined the importance of the internet, recognising that it "affects all layers of our lives".
He has pledged to offer free internet to the lower strata of society if he is successful on June 18.
Abdolnaser Hemmati, one of the most moderate candidates, and the main challenger to Raeisi, called on the current justice chief of Iran to use his authority and removed all filters on Twitter. Raeisi did not respond to Hemmati request.
The current government has also backed calls for an end to censorship of social media, with Information Technology Minister Azeri Jahromi, a longterm advocate for an open internet, welcoming the shifting perceptions.
"It is a good thing that some people who used to criticise social media platforms and presence in virtual networks are today using this space," he told reporters.
Jahromi previously came under legal scrutiny by Iran's top prosecutor, when he failed to comply with an order to filter Instagram, block virtual private networks and promote locally developed messengers.
Twitter and Facebook were both blocked by Iran in 2009, when the country was rocked by widespread protests, following the highly contentious election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as the country's president.