Prohibitions on reporting on green movement leaders are just the latest restrictions imposed by the Islamic Republic. Negar Esfandiary reports
In the latest move on press censorship Iran has ruled that “Leaders of Sedition” is the only admissable name when referring to any member of the opposition movement in newspapers and magazines.
In a letter addressed to editors and news agencies throughout the country, Iran’s Ministry of Culture stated “The role of the media is to nurture calm in society and public opinion” and that reporting on the activities of defeated presidential candidates Moussavi and Karrubi as well as former president Khatami and printing photographs of them isand was officially banned. Any necessary reference to them must be made as “leaders of sedition”, the label “bestowed” on them by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei.
Khamenei and Iran’s president Ahmadinejad are both included in Reporters Witohout Borders’ list of “Predators of Press Freedom” and this ruling that was stamped “Urgent” and “Top Secret” is an open declaration of censorship, bypassing Iran’s constitution. In practical terms the ruling promotes little adjustment, the press and authorities forever play a game of hide in seek, with more than 20 newpapers shut down in the past year, journalists are forced to censor themselves to remain afloat. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) estimates that 300 journalists are currently unemployed in Iran since last year’s government crackdown and there is a reluctance to employ anyone who has previously published reports or opinion in support of the Green Movement.
Earlier this year CPJ reported that a third of the world’s jailed journalists are in Iran, with 170 arrested since June 2009 and 37 still in prison today. The Ministry of Culture’s Commission for Press Authorisation and Surveillance most recently suspended Asia newspaper and revoked the licences of Sepidar and Parastoo weeklies “for publishing images contrary to public virtue”.
Moussavi responded with the following in an interview published online yesterday: “They’ve interfered with our national media turning it into a one-sided, division demolishing media. They want to pollute the atmosphere created by the green movement with their viruses and deprive us of this beautiful window that has opened, but this conspiracy will have the opposite end result.”