Tightening the Net: Online Freedoms in Iran Following Rouhani’s Reelection

This briefing explores some of the developments and concerns for Internet rights under the moderate administration of Rouhani following his reelection during the 19 May Presidential election. This is the second in a series of quarterly briefings that will continue ARTICLE 19’s reporting on Iran’s Internet from our Tightening the Net series, with the aim of documenting the changes affecting online rights in Iran. This report covers Internet freedom in Iran from mid-May to the end of June 2017.

Rouhani led his election campaign with promises and boasts of a new Internet freedom policy. In the first live debate, he reminded the debate audience of improvements to Internet freedoms under his administration, and quipped to rival candidates: “If it wasn’t for this government, even our friends here today couldn’t have campaigned on the Internet.”

Our previous report assessed some of the gains and shortcomings of Rouhani’s administration as he went into the election. Now that his successful reelection has occurred, we look at two ongoing themes that have revealed themselves following the election:

  1.  The Rouhani administration’s struggle against repressive policies and actions towards online freedoms by the country’s hardliners, including the Supreme Leader, the Revolutionary Guards and the judiciary;
  2. The Rouhani administration’s own shortcomings in its policies to deliver on the rhetoric of Internet freedom.

We explore developments in access to information, especially the welcome lack of information controls during the elections; statements from the administration and the Supreme Leader about Internet freedom after Rouhani’s victory; developments on the National Information Network (NIN) and net neutrality; and finally the arrests and intimidation of Telegram users.

Read the briefing full.