Rohollah Faghihi’s recent article in Foreign Policy—“Is Iran’s Information Minister the Islamic Republic’s Emmanuel Macron?”—depicts Iran’s information and communications technology (ICT) minister, Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi, as an advocate of internet freedom, especially when it comes to accessing social media networks.
The article suggests that when Azari Jahromi is not able to counter hard-liners’ demands for censorship—for example, when the popular Telegram messaging app was banned—it was only because he faced powers greater than himself. This characterization overlooks Azari Jahromi’s record in office and contains significant omissions (all of which are in the public record) regarding his role advancing repressive internet censorship and surveillance in Iran.
The author states, “From 2002 to 2009, Azari Jahromi served in the Intelligence Ministry’s technical department, where he focused on cybersecurity and protecting digital infrastructure.” This is misleading; the author fails to mention the fact that during this period, cybersecurity in Iran consisted largely of the monitoring and tracking journalists, activists, and other citizens in order to identify and suppress dissent—and that this “technical department” developed domestic surveillance infrastructure in order to aid the Intelligence Ministry in this pursuit.
This period in Iran was characterized by violent state repression, which was facilitated by the state’s surveillance capabilities. In 2009, mass surveillance operations during the crackdown against Iranians who protested the disputed results of that year’s presidential election significantly aided the authorities’ ability to identify, track, arrest, and imprison peaceful protesters.
Azari Jahromi’s own characterization of his activities during this period are in fact more accurate than the author’s. The semi-official Fars News Agency reported in August 2017 that during a session of the parliamentary Social Affairs Committee just prior to his confirmation, Azari Jahromi stated, “During my activities, I was not in charge of wiretapping but in charge of building the technical infrastructure industry for this purpose, and I’m proud of it.”
Source » dailywire