Monday 16 December 2019

President of Iran is censored by 'rivals'

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani

Damien McElroy in London

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani has condemned his country's hardline security forces after one of his addresses on freedom of speech was taken off air at the behest of his rivals.

The president's speech to a national internet festival on Saturday was unceremoniously cut from state television.

Mr Rouhani, who was elected last year on a platform of reducing state meddling in the private lives of individuals, responded with a blizzard of messages mocking attempts to control access to the internet, social media applications and satellite television channels.

Aides close to the president blamed Ezzatollah Zargham, the director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting and a former commander of the Revolutionary Guard, for banning the broadcast.

Mr Rouhani said censorship was damaging the Iranian economy and driving the best educated and wealthiest abroad. He added it was a right of all Iranians to access the internet and deal with the government through electronic platforms.

"This country will not progress or overcome its problems by slogans and rhetoric," he announced in another swipe at the ideologues who oppose his reforms.

But Javan Daily, a Persian-language news site controlled by the guards, said the president was effectively condoning the widespread use of websites for sex or dating.

Massoud Jazayeri, the deputy commander of the guards, said: "Under the current government's cultural and media policies, the enemy and its fifth columns in the country have once again become active and are plotting . . . sedition through their liberal and anti-religious propaganda, which aims to overthrow our Islamic system." (© Daily Telegraph, London)

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