Even though the full details of the 25-year China-Iran agreement have yet to be revealed, an Iranian MP said on April 11 that it was “important” for Iran to “control cyberspace” with the accord.
According to the state-run Mehrnews website, Mahmoud Nabavian, Tehran’s member of Parliament, said Iran did not currently have control over the internet.
“Unfortunately, we do not have control over cyberspace, search engines, social media apps, and emails. It is out of our hands. It’s important for us to rule over cyberspace with the cooperation of the Chinese,” Nabavian told the state-run website.
This is while Iran’s Minister of Information and Communications Mohammad‑Javad Azari Jahromi said on April 3, that the agreement did not effect Iran’s communication and technology sector.
In another agreement between Iran and Russia on January 27, state-run websites reported an intelligence and security agreement between the two Foreign Ministers, in regards to exchanging technology expertise.
The China-Iran 25-year accord
The Foreign Minister of Iran and China signed a 25-year cooperation agreement on March 7, which was aired live on state-run TV. While the complete details of the China-Iran 25-year agreement are yet to be released, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the agreement was a “road map” for trade and economic and transportation cooperation, with a special focus on both countries’ private sectors. It is also expected to include Chinese investments in Iran’s energy and infrastructure sectors.
Iran’s internet censorship
The Iranian regime, as well as Russia and China have been criticized by international and human rights organizations for filtering social media applications and access to public websites.
In a new law passed in February, Iran’s Supreme Council of Cyberspace said websites and social media accounts with over 5,000 viewers or members will be monitored by judicial and government agencies.
According to IT Iran, a website that covers tech news, the law stipulates that account owners must immediately remove “unreal” information, news, or other content, upon being informed and must post an explanation, then report to the relevant authorities.
Accounts monitored will include social media channels, pages, websites, and apps that have over 5,000 viewers or members.
According to the Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Iran is included in the list of press freedom’s 20 worst digital predators in 2020, which include companies and government agencies that use digital technology to spy on and harass journalists and thereby jeopardize freedom of access to news and information.
Iran is also ranked 173rd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.