In December 2020, when Iranian society was struggling with small and big problems from the coronavirus to the lack of water and power outages, in hidden and a silent atmosphere a plan called the ‘Requirement to publish data and information plan’ was presented to the parliament, and until a few days ago no one was aware of the existence of such a plan.
Then suddenly everyone began to speak about it, and many lawyers in Iran called it a plan worse than the plan ‘to protect the rights of users in cyberspace.’
Once this plan is finalized and approved, the government will own information about all people’s lives and businesses, and it seems that the scars of this plan will go deeper into the body of society than the wounds of the ‘protection of the users’ rights in the cyberspace.
According to the written law of this regime who is one of the leading governments in the suppression of freedom of speech and information access, everyone has the right to access public information unless prohibited by law, while it is stated in this plan put on the agenda of MPs that the specialized committees under the Supreme Council for the Supervision of the dissemination of Information will be formed to check the availability of public data and information published by individuals.
It is also prohibited to upload data and information to systems or websites that have not received permission from the Council after the finalization and notification of this plan.
One of the issues that seem to have difficulty publishing and free access to information if this plan comes into force is the lack of direct reference to everyone’s right to access information. The proposed plan further emphasized the bans.
On the other hand, it seems that with the approval of this plan, the authority to disseminate information and data is out of the hands of the government and the Commission for the Publication and Open Access to Information, which is under the supervision of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and is provided to the Supreme Council for monitoring the dissemination of information under the judiciary, and even government agencies must ask for permission from this council that is under the judiciary to publish their information.
According to the ‘Requirement to Publish Data and Information’ plan, a council should be formed to monitor the dissemination of information, supervise the implementation of laws relating to transparency, protect the rights of communication and information privacy, monitor the rules governing the sovereign secrets of the Supreme Council for The Monitoring of The Dissemination of Information, within one month of the notification of this law in the Judiciary.
The 20-member council is headed by the Head of the Judiciary and attended by the First Vice President, the Minister of Information, the Minister of Communications, the Chief of The General Staff of the Armed Forces, the Head of the Inspector General’s Office, the Head of the National Cyberspace Center, three expert judges familiar with the field of information dissemination and data protection (for three years), five members of parliament as observers without the right to vote, three experts and reliable experts active in the field Dissemination of information (selected by the Supreme Council of Cyberspace), an expert and activist in the field of information dissemination is chosen by the Expediency Council and one of the experts active in the field of information dissemination is chosen by the Supreme Court of Calculation.
According to the projections made by the Council, it must set standards for the production, processing, operation, publication, transmission, disclosure, and protection of data and information. The Council is also responsible for determining the criteria and instances of sovereign secrets, job secrets, and communication and information privacy.
The Council shall provide information related to crimes related to violations of the communication and information privacy of individuals and the expose of government secrets and occupational secrets of individuals to security and judicial institutions and authorities.
At the end of this plan, the Council has been obliged, from the date of notification of this law, in cooperation with the Ministry of Communications and relevant agencies, to prepare the criteria for the creation, administration, and updating of the websites and information bases of the persons concerned in terms of content, ease and access of users, reliable and understandable to the public, and after approval in the Board of Ministers for implementation.
It is important to note that from the date of entry into force of this plan, the Law on the Publication and Open Access to Information approved in 2008 will be abolished, which means that Iran’s parliament, by submitting this plan, seeks to obsolete the law on the publication and free access to information, and take the authority to disseminate information and data from the government and give it over to the judiciary.
Each government launches a system to facilitate its affairs, as well as to review and comment on various matters, to maintain the public safety of the community. Therefore, an organization must have access to public information and protect it from abuse.
But this law will allow abuse of the people’s privacy, if such a thing even exists in Iran, because the government could spy on every element of the people’s lives, according to social rights activists.