Iran censors coverage of protests, aided by company active in Europe

The Iranian government denies its citizens the right to know what is happening in their country,says Reza Moini, head of RSF’s Iran-Afghanistan desk. “The government must stop trying to silence the latest sources of freely and independently reported news and information used by many Iranians, and must instead abide by its obligations under international standards and must end all discrimination. digital.

RSF has learned that internet access has been interrupted in many cities since the protests began in May. Initially sparked by the rising cost of living, particularly high food prices, protests resumed following the collapse of a 10-storey building on May 23 in Abadan, in which at least 30 people are dead.

Today, international events are used as a pretext for the repression of the Internet, in particular of the G7 summit and the visit of European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to Tehran last weekend in a bid to revive stalled Iranian nuclear talks.

Iranian authorities censor the cover of every major political event through a content distribution network linked to the country’s digital infrastructure. This network allows the Islamic Republic to control the online content to which its citizens have access.

Launched in 2011, the construction of a Iranian National Internet finally started to make significant progress from 2017 when Abr Arvan (Arvan Cloud in English), an Iranian online content delivery and cloud services company, got involved.

This company, which has a branch in Düsseldorf, has provided the infrastructure in which Iranians now access online content through the so-called national information network under the Project Shoma. It is this distribution network that allows censorship.

“This network makes it possible to filter the content that Iranians can access,” explains Vincent Berthier, head of RSF’s Tech Desk. “This company, which is also active in Europe, therefore plays a de facto strategic role in controlling access to information in Iran. It must immediately cease its collaboration with the Iranian government, to which it provides the tools to impose its censorship.

In order to force its citizens to fall back on this national network, the government has repeatedly increased cost of an internet connection high-speed access to foreign websites, effectively imposing digital apartheid between those who can and cannot afford a good connection.

The impact on access to information has been devastating. Since the wave of protests in early May, around 20 million Iranians in the south and southwest of the country have stopped accessing international and Iranian news sites considered sources of “counter-revolutionary subversive” content. “, anti-government propaganda and “insulting to what is sacred.