Iran reformists backlash against hardliners via Telegram app

Just a couple of weeks after reformist-backed candidates in the Islamic Republic's February elections appeared to gain a sweeping victory in Tehran, Iranians seem to cheer another online victory.

Iran's February election for the parliament saw a moderate, pro-government coalition of pragmatic conservatives, centrists and reformists winning a landslide victory in Tehran, thanks to the most popular mobile phone messaging app in the Islamic Republic, Telegram.

Over the past couple of years, Iranian users have widely used the Telegram app and other social media platforms to push their points of view on a range of topics from political to social and economic issues, but their influential role became more obvious in Iran's 2016 parliamentary election.

During the electoral campaign, twenty million users of Telegram alongside with millions of Facebook and Twitter users put joint efforts to use the social media against the conservative-dominated traditional media, particularly Iran's state-run TV channels, in favor of the moderate President Hassan Rouhani's allies.

While the administration of President Hassan Rouhani has demonstrated a friendly attitude towards social media platforms in the country, a group of conservatives and hardliners have taken hostile attitude towards the social media.

In addition to Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who holds verified accounts on Twitter and Facebook, a number of Iranian ministers and ambassadors have been seen to actively use Facebook to communicate with people.

The conservatives' hostile attitudes have led to blocking several social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter and the video sharing website YouTube in the country forcing Iranian users to access the blocked platforms through proxy servers.

Iranian officials have been debating over the past several months whether to block Telegram, just like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Meanwhile prior to the February election, the country's Ministry of Information and Communications Technology resisted the demands to block Telegram.

Indifferent to the hostile attitudes towards social media, on March 16 and only two weeks after announcing the outcome of the election, pragmatic Rouhani's administration announced launching its official channel on Telegram justifying the action as a move to share news with the public.

While about 50 percent of Iranians spend more than an hour per day on social networks and over 23 million of Iran's 78 million people are smartphone users, the administration's decision to officially join Telegram could be a sign indicating the early launch of a campaign for the next round of presidential election to be held in 2017.

In addition to the electoral advantages, the decision will also create chances for the pragmatic president's allies to voice support for his economic reform plans through social media.

Source: TREND

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