Iraq’s government initiated a nation-wide suspension of the widely-used Telegram messaging application on Sunday, August 6, citing “national security concerns” and inciting objections from channels aligned with pro-Iranian groups.
By Sunday’s midday, the application was rendered inaccessible for users in Baghdad, except for those utilizing a VPN to bypass the restriction.
The decision, stemming from directives concerning national security, was defended by Iraq’s ministry of communications. The ministry rationalized the suspension as a measure to “safeguard citizens’ personal information, which the application compromises.”
The government voiced its discontent with Telegram, accusing it of neglecting multiple requests to rectify the “data breach from governmental bodies and private individuals, endangering national security and societal harmony.”
In Iraq, Telegram is more than a mere communication tool; it serves as a promotional medium for groups aligned with armed factions and pro-Iran political organizations.
A channel, with a staggering 330,000 subscribers, associated with these factions, lashed out at the Iraqi government’s decision, interpreting it as an act to “silence” them. Furthermore, they charged the government, supported by pro-Iran entities, with “seizing freedoms.”
As Iraq steps towards stability after years of turmoil, the authorities continue to face criticism from NGOs and activists for curbing free speech.
Last month, Amnesty International raised alarms over the Iraqi government’s contemplation of introducing two legislative bills. If enacted, they could “drastically limit the rights to free speech and peaceful protests.”
This move coincides with “a string of trials aimed at those expressing dissent towards government officials.”
Telegram’s suspension is not unique to Iraq; it has faced similar restrictions in various countries. In Brazil, it was temporarily suspended in April for failing to share information regarding neo-Nazi groups using the platform but was reinstated after an appeal.
Source: The Star