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3,000 legal experts: Western social media block Iran media despite freedom of speech claims

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)

Some 3,000 Iranian legal experts have issued a statement vehemently condemning the blatant violation of the right to free speech and free flow of information by Western social media platforms through blocking international social media accounts of Iran’s national broadcaster.

The statement was issued on Monday in the wake of Google targeting for the seventh time Iran's 24-hour English-language Press TV news network last month and blocking the network's access to its official YouTube account without any prior notice.

The blocking came hot on the heels of another hostile move on the Iranian media outlets, with Facebook shutting down the official page of Press TV over what it claimed to be its failure to follow “Community Standards.” The page was later reinstated.

The Tehran-based English-language news network has repeatedly fallen victim to censorship on multiple fronts, including Twitter and Instagram besides Google and its services.

“While the administrators of social media networks such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube boast about being the pioneers of freedom of expression and consider that freedom as a fundamental principle in their platforms, we witness on a daily basis that many user accounts around the world, namely those on Facebook, are subjected to restrictions such as deleting posts and eventually blocking and permanently suspending accounts,” the legal experts said in the statement.

“Despite claiming to respect freedom of expression, the US-based social media companies in recent years have repeatedly acted against the Iranian media,” the statement underlined, adding, “And following the illegal blocking of a large number of Persian-language pages on Facebook, Google and Twitter, the accounts belonging to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB)’s World Service have, as a result, been blocked in recent months.”

The legal experts stressed that such restrictions are a clear violation of freedom of speech and contrary to the principle of free flow of information.

They also referred in their statement to Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted in 1948, which stipulates, "Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

The statement also pointed to the American magazine Intercept, which revealed in a report in December 2017 that Facebook was acting on the orders of the US government and Israeli officials to delete the pages and content of some activists.

“Facebook recently deleted hundreds of accounts in cyberspace under the pretext of having posted messages in support of the Iranian government, and in a similar move a few months ago, blocked the official page of Iran's Arabic-language Alalam news network, claiming without providing conclusive evidence that the IRIB had been using hundreds of 'fake user accounts' since 2011 to influence voters in various countries, including Britain and the United States, and to send messages in support of the Iranian government,” the legal experts noted.

“These platforms, under false pretenses, block independent voices trying to liberate human beings.”

The statement further underlined that Facebook, in recent months, has on several occasions resorted to unsubstantiated allegations to delete accounts run by Iranian users who voiced their support for the Iranian nuclear deal and displayed opposition to the Israeli occupation.

“Such deletion of user accounts is not limited to Iranian users,” the statement said, adding, “The double standard applied by YouTube in dealing with its users indicate the direct influence these networks are under from American statesmen and Zionists, which is contrary to their claim of being advocates of freedom of expression.”

“We, the lawyers, while denouncing the double standard and contradiction in remarks made by social media administrators, call on the Iranian Judiciary's High Council for Human Rights and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as defenders of the rights of the Iranian people, and on the UN Human Rights Council and the United Nations itself, as international organizations missioned to safeguard human rights, to take urgent action to prevent censorship and obstruction of free flow of information.”

Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:

Press TV News Roku