Iran cracks down on mass media, free speech ahead of elections

By May 26, 2021

Iran (MNN) — Iran’s Guardian Council released presidential candidates for the June 18 election yesterday. Term limits prevent current President Hassan Rouhani from serving again.

Officials warned journalists that any criticism of the state’s top picks would lead to “repercussions” as Iranian citizens called for an election boycott. The regime is also cracking down on internet and social media access to prevent mass protests.

A longer-lasting mass media blockage is probable in the weeks to come, posing a significant threat to Heart4Iran’s Gospel outreach. “We’re reaching people in Iran through satellite TV and social media,” Heart4Iran President Mike Ansari says.

“When the Iranian government implements security measures to limit and censor people’s access to both of these mediums, it is going to hinder our efforts.”

Media ministry in Iran

Iran signed a 25-year contract with China in March, the details of which are only starting to surface now. “It is our understanding that Iran has asked China to provide technology to limit their population’s access to outside internet,” Ansari says.

Currently, the “average Iranian has access to the world of internet outside of Iran,” he continues. Internet evasion tools like proxy servers allow individuals to bypass government restrictions and blockades.

The hope of Christ is permeating Iranian society through loopholes like these.

“The response from inside Iran to a virtual church was very positive. In the last two years, we’ve been able to gain momentum and traction in ministering and creating virtual communities across Iran,” Ansari says.

However, government plans like these could end virtual church communities. Under the proposed system, “institutions inside the country will be able to operate online using a high-speed internet that is only for Iran, but [the government] will limit and censor access to outside internet,” Ansari explains.

“We have realized over the last few years that the Iranian people usually find creative ways to bypass [government] limitations. We are hoping that, through some creative solutions, we’ll be able to maintain a strong presence inside the country using internet and satellite TV.”

Reaching kids for Christ

Heart4Iran will need innovative solutions to keep its online communities alive. Effective material to reach Iranian children is seriously lacking. “We decided to duplicate our virtual church platform and present a virtual Sunday School to the people of Iran,” Ansari says.

(Photo courtesy of Heart4Iran)

A new initiative brings the Gospel to Iran’s next generation. More than 60-percent of the country’s population is under 30 years old.

Long-term strategic and innovative planning is what Heart4Iran is aiming for. “Our goal is to create a bridge and provide resources to parents and children [so they can] understand the faith of Christianity [and] so they would help change and transform the future of the country,” Ansari says. One of the key resources Heart4Iran is using to reach the Iranian children is Superbook, a high-quality children’s animated Bible series.

“Many families that have left Islam for Christianity [lack] children-focused content to help their children learn the basics of their new faith.”

Help Heart4Iran develop kid-focused content here.

“We’re also hoping the community of resource and ministry partners outside of Iran would join us in making this initiative a success,” Ansari adds. Contact Heart4Iran here to discuss partnership opportunities.




Header image is a representative graphic courtesy of Gerd Altmann/Pixabay.