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Week of August 28, 2017

New media door ajar, news remains shut tight
"suitable" to be defined

Iranian mobile app developers discovered last week their products removed from the virtual shelf in Apple’s App Store. They had been informed by Apple that “the App Store cannot host, distribute or do business with apps or developers connected to certain US embargoed countries,” reported semi-official Mehr News Agency (August 27). In other words, Apple executives don’t want to get side-ways of US sanctions on Iranian business.

Unhappy with this is new telecommunications minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi. Smartphone apps support a variety of new media businesses, all important to please Iran’s youthful, tech-savvy population. ”IT should be used for making human life better and comfortable not a tool for discrimination between countries,” he posted to Twitter, adding that he’ll be “legally pursuing” the issue.

Yes, Twitter; officially banned in Iran along with Facebook and YouTube. Earlier last week Minister Azari Jahromi, shortly after confirmation by the Iranian Parliament, indicated a readiness to negotiate a slightly new path. "Twitter is not an immoral environment needing to be blocked,” he said to State daily Iran, quoted by AFP (August 23). "I have a Twitter account and I think it is a suitable tool for public diplomacy, connecting to people around the globe and voicing our ideas,” he said, separately, to the reformist Iran Labor News Agency (August 23). (See more about media in the Middle East and North Africa here)

Millions of regular Iranians use the world famous social media portals despite the official ban. Mobile phone and VPN network usage in Iran are pervasive. The caveat, apparently, to resuming service is keeping content considered offensive away from Iranian eyes.

This new openness to new media contrasts with the same old tactics of censorship. earlier in the month Iranian authorities blocked assets of local BBC Persian staff, reported Reuters and others (August 15). Current and former staff as well as contributors are prevented from “selling or buying property, cars and other goods.” BBC Persian, part of BBC World Service, is banned in Iran but, as with social media, resourceful Iranians mount satellite dishes on rooftops.

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