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Iraq lifts suspension of Telegram app

By Agence France-Presse Published Aug 14, 2023 1:36 pm

The Iraqi government on Sunday, Aug. 13 ended a week-long suspension of the Telegram messaging app over "national security" concerns after the move drew criticism from pro-Iran factions.

On Sunday morning, the app was again accessible without the need for a virtual private network (VPN), AFP journalists in Baghdad said.

Iraq's ministry of communications had on Saturday evening, Aug. 12 announced "the lifting of the freeze on Telegram from tomorrow, Sunday."

Telegram is very popular in Iraq, and is particularly used as a propaganda platform for groups associated with armed factions and pro-Iran political parties. 

A coalition of Iran-linked Shiite Muslim parties dominates Iraq's parliament, and backs Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani.

When it suspended the app, the government said Telegram "did not respond" to repeated requests to address the issue of "data leakage from state institutions and individuals, which poses a threat to national security and social peace."

In its new statement, the ministry said managers of the app had responded to "demands of authorities by detecting the people who divulged the data of citizens and by expressing their full availability to communicate with relevant authorities."

Responding to criticisms on one Iraqi Telegram channel that the suspension was a restriction of free speech, the ministry said it "is not opposed to freedom of expression."

However, it invited managers of apps "to respect the law, the security and the data of users."

After decades of conflict, Iraq has achieved relative stability but rights groups regularly criticize authorities over the level of free expression.

The country ranks 167 out of 180 on the Reporters Without Borders 2023 Press Freedom Index.

Telegram has previously been blocked in some other countries. (AFP)