Iran restricted access to Instagram and the secure messaging app Telegram on Sunday as the interior minister warned protesters would “pay the price” for what has been described as unlawful demonstrations that appeared to take a deadly turn Saturday. The restrictions of the app are “temporary,” according to state news agency Irib, which quoted a source saying the decision was made to “maintain tranquility and security of society.”
Telegram CEO Pavel Durov wrote on Twitter that the app had been blocked. “Iranian authorities are blocking access to Telegram for the majority of Iranians after our public refusal to shut down …
peacefully protesting channels,” he wrote. A day earlier, the company acknowledged it had shut down a public channel that was allegedly inciting violence.
How extensive the restrictions are on the social media apps remains unclear. CNN, for example, said it was able to contact users in Iran through telegram. “The app was slower than usual but messages eventually got through,” according to CNN.
The restrictions on what have become the main organizing tool for the anti-establishment protests came as Iranian authorities issued a warning against demonstrators. “Those who damage public property and create disorder are accountable before the law and must pay the price,” Interior Minister Abdolrahman Rahman Fazli said Sunday. There are isolated reports that protesters took to the streets for a fourth straight day on Sunday although police in Tehran fired a water cannon to disperse demonstrators and some witnesses report a heavy presence of police in the capital. “I saw a few young men being arrested and put into police van. They don’t let anyone assemble,” a witness tells Reuters. Video posted on social media also showed clashes in other cities across the country.
Authorities also confirmed reports yesterday that two people were killed Saturday during protests in Doroud, a city southwest of Tehran. Officials insist law enforcement officers did not fire their weapons and blamed “foreign agents” or infiltrators for the deaths.
President Donald Trump once again took to Twitter on Sunday to comment on the protests, warning that the “USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!” He wasn’t alone. Canada also said it was encouraged by the protests, which led to a retort from the foreign ministry spokesman in Tehran who said that “Canada’s intervention in Iranian affairs is a violation of international conventions.” Boris Johnson, the British foreign minister, also commented on Twitter, saying it was “vital that citizens should have the right to demonstrate peacefully”.