Twitter suspends accounts of Iranian media outlets

Twitter suspends accounts belonging to IRNA, Mehr and YJC, reportedly for harassing people who follow the Baha’i faith.

The Farsi language Twitter accounts of the official IRNA and semiofficial Mehr news agencies were inaccessible on Saturday [File: Matt Rourke/AP]

Twitter has suspended the accounts of several Iranian state media outlets, citing what it said was the “coordinated and targeted harassment” of people linked to the minority Baha’i faith.

The Farsi language Twitter accounts of the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), the semiofficial Mehr news agency were inaccessible on Saturday.

The Twitter page of Young Journalists Club (YJC), run by the state broadcaster Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), was also suspended. 

“Account suspended. Twitter suspends accounts which violate the Twitter rules,” read messages on each of the accounts.

Mehr and YJC said the affected accounts had been inaccessible since Friday.

Labelling the move “illegal”, Mehr said it had not been informed of a reason for the suspension.

It suggested the move followed its coverage of Iran’s seizure a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz. 

However, a source at Twitter told several media organisations the suspensions were related to the harassment of people linked to the Baha’i faith, a religious minority that has long faced persecution in Iran.

A Twitter source confirmed to Al Jazeera that a series of accounts have been suspended “for multi-account abuse and other forms of platform manipulation”.

“These accounts were engaging in coordinated and targeted harassment of people associated with the Baha’i faith. Our investigations continue,” added the source.

The Baha’i faith is not a recognised religion in Iran and members of the community are the most persecuted religious minority in the Islamic Republic, according to United Nations rights experts. 

Al Jazeera was awaiting a comment from Twitter at the time of publication. 

The YJC denounced the action, saying the agencies “had no other purpose than the publication of news and information”.

The agency said the accounts of “some other Iranian users” had also been suspended. 

The AFP news agency said another account taken down belonged to Ali Akbar Raefipoor, a hardliner public speaker.

The micro-blogging platform is banned in Iran, but many officials still have accounts and people access them by using a virtual private network, or VPN, to bypass censorship.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies