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Iraq Suspends Telegram App Citing National Security Threat

Date: August 07, 2023

The Iraqi government announced the suspension of the popular messaging application Telegram across the country, citing concerns about national security. The decision drew criticism from channels associated with pro-Iran factions.

By Sunday noon, the service was fully shut down, leaving users in Baghdad unable to access fresh messages unless they used a VPN to connect.

The Ministry of Communications justified the move, stating that it was based on “directives from higher authorities related to national security.” The suspension was deemed necessary to safeguard citizens’ personal data, which the government claimed was being violated by the app.

The Iraqi government asserted that Telegram had not responded to their repeated requests to address issues related to “data leakage from state institutions and individuals,” posing a potential threat to national security and social harmony.

Telegram enjoys widespread popularity in Iraq, particularly among armed factions and pro-Iran political parties. A channel with over 330,000 subscribers criticized the suspension, alleging that it amounts to “gagging” them and accused the Iraqi government, supported by pro-Iran parties, of restricting freedoms.

Iraq has achieved relative stability after years of conflict, but the government frequently faces criticism from NGOs and activists for undermining freedom of expression. Amnesty International expressed concern about two bills proposed to parliament, which, if passed, could severely curtail freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The rights group noted that these draft legislations coincide with trials targeting individuals critical of government figures.

It is worth noting that Telegram has faced similar blocks in other countries in the past.

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