Khamenei Consolidates Power over Internet Policy in Hard Line Council He Controls
Khamenei Consolidates Power over Internet Policy in Hard Line Council He Controls – Previously there were multiple state bodies involved in Internet …
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, has announced that authority for Internet policy will be exclusively centered in the country’s Supreme Cyberspace Council, a move that will consolidate decision-making power over the Internet into an organization the hardline cleric controls.
Previously there were multiple state bodies involved in Internet policy, allowing for diverse power centers—including those controlled by the more moderate Rouhani administration—to weigh in on Internet decisions.
If implemented, the decision bodes poorly for Internet freedom in Iran: the Council, while chaired by President Rouhani, reports directly to Khamenei and a majority of its members are appointed by the Supreme Leader, who believes the Internet is “used by the enemy to target Islamic thinking.”
“This decision will give a free pass to security agencies to block any site—or go after any individual—that challenges the official line,” said Hadi Ghaemi, executive director of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.
In an announcement on Khamenei’s website on September 5, 2015 re-appointing the members of the Supreme Council of Cyberspace for another four-year term, the Supreme Leader asked for the “dissolution of all Supreme Councils [state organizations] approved in the past, which are parallel to this Council, in order to strengthen its extra-branch and central position, and to transfer those other Councils’ responsibilities to the Supreme Cyberspace Council.”
In other words, any other organization involved in Internet policy is to be dissolved and all Internet decision-making power concentrated in the Supreme Council. The decision will effectively cut the Rouhani administration out of Internet policy. Its Ministry of Information and Communications has played an important role trying to advance Internet access in Iran.
“This decision has stripped Rouhani of his ability to affect policy in an area that is central to Iran’s 80 million citizens,” said Ghaemi. “The question is, how will Rouhani respond, if at all, to this institutional sidelining?”
Read more: Iran Human Rights
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