Iran’s judiciary summons telecoms minister over failure to filter Instagram

A court in Iran has summoned the country’s telecoms minister to investigate why he failed to filter photo-sharing website Instagram, among other charges filed against him.

A spokesman of the telecoms ministry said in a Wednesday tweet that Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi had returned to his office after being questioned by investigating judges in the Culture and Media Court.

The announcement said that Azari Jahromi had been summoned after Iran’s prosecutor general filed several charges against him.

The Iranian judiciary had said earlier that the minister should attend the court session to respond to queries about why he had failed to comply with an order to restrict foreign messenger services.

The report said that the minister had also failed to implement orders by Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace to provide more support for locally-developed messenger and social media services and to block access to virtual private networks (VPNs).

However, an image of the complaint filed against Azari Jahromi published by ILNA showed that Iran’s prosecutor general had specifically charged the minister for his failure to block Instagram, a US-based social media service which has tens of millions of users in Iran.

Free access to Instagram has been a controversial issue as critics believe the content circulating on the service is not morally appropriate for Iranians, especially for children. However, some government authorities have argued that the service has proven useful by enabling millions of Iranians to engage in retail and business activities.

The ministry said the court had issued a writ ordering Azari Jahromi, one of Iran’s youngest ever ministers at 39, to perform his legal obligations or face arrest.