World

Iranian culture minister seeks end of Facebook ban

TEHRAN — Iran’s government should legalize access to social-networking websites including Twitter and Facebook, said Ali Jannati, minister of culture and Islamic guidance.

‘‘Not only Facebook, but other social networks should be accessible and the illegal qualification should be removed,’’ Jannati said, according to the official Islamic Republic News Agency.

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Iran blocks access to websites it considers politically sensitive and to social-networking sites, which activists used in 2009 to organize street protests after a disputed presidential vote. President Hassan Rouhani, who was elected in June, has a Twitter account with more than 122,000 followers; he has pledged to allow more social and press freedom and reduce state ‘‘policing’’ of Iranians’ private lives.

Several Iranian officials, including Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham, have Facebook or Twitter accounts, or both.

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The existing ban has spurred some Iranians to use virtual private networks to circumvent the controls through computers located abroad. About 2 million Iranians have Facebook accounts, half of them in the capital, Tehran, deputy parliamentary speaker Mohammad Hassan Aboutorabi-Fard said in January.

Jannati said he does not control Internet bans, which are overseen by a screening committee that is not under his ministry’s direct supervision. The Culture Ministry has one representative on that committee, he added.

The president’s conservative rivals say young people can be corrupted by Western-style TV shows, which Iranians also access illegally through satellite channels.

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Facebook is a ‘‘calamity’’ in the life of married couples and may result in their divorce, Iran’s Khabaronline news website said in an Oct. 21 editorial. Time spent on social networks, where one can interact with people outside the family, can weaken relations and lead to alienation, it said.

Bloomberg News

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