Iranian activist disappears after criticizing bill online

Family members claim Iranian activist disappeared after criticizing bill proposed by hardliners to implement highly restrictive internet policies

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — An Iranian activist has disappeared after criticizing a radical bill aimed at implementing highly restrictive internet policies, his family said on Saturday.

Hossein Ronaghi, a blogger and freedom of expression campaigner, disappeared on Wednesday after criticizing a bill in parliament aimed at limiting internet access in the country, known as the ‘Protection Bill’. users”. The proposal was criticized by many Iranians on social media.

There was no information on Ronaghi’s location or condition.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who has the final say on all matters of state, said in March last year that social media in Iran was “unbridled” and should not to be “surrendered to the enemy”.

In a recent tweet, Ronaghi said, “The protection plan was a system-wide decision based on the request of the leader of the Islamic Republic who said, ‘Virtual space must be controlled.’ “

Ronaghi’s brother Hassan, who is also an activist, said in a tweet that Hossein had been kidnapped. He said his brother received several anonymous phone calls in the days leading up to his disappearance.

Hassan Ronaghi also said his brother needed medical attention as he suffered from diseases affecting several of his organs, including his kidneys.

“Anything that happens in Hossein is the responsibility of the supreme leadership office, the (Revolutionary Guard) and the judiciary.”

Reza Ronaghi, the brothers’ father, said in an interview with Iranian media based abroad on Wednesday that Khamenei was directly responsible for his son’s life.

The day after first reports of his disappearance, human rights activists claimed that security forces entered Hossein Ronaghi’s home and took a laptop and notebooks.

The wording of the proposed Internet legislation has not yet been finalized. But if implemented in its current form, it could lead to the disruption of international internet services and websites – like Instagram – that have not yet been blocked.

Under pressure from hardliners, the Iranian government has long blocked access to numerous websites and social media platforms, from YouTube and Facebook to Twitter and Telegram.

Many Iranians, especially young people, access social media through VPNs and proxies. Instagram and WhatsApp remain unblocked.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, this is not the first time Ronaghi has been arrested. In December 2009, during mass arrests following post-election protests over allegations of voter fraud during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s re-election, he was arrested after discussing politics in a series of critical blogs that were eventually blocked by the government.

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