Iran: Attack of the front page clones



“For the preservation of your newspaper and the health of its managing directors, pay careful attention to the following…” Replica front pages inspire a fake directive from the regime. Negar Esfandiary reports

On Friday, browsing an Iranian website 30 mail, I couldn’t help but notice a repeated image of Ayatollah Khamenei standing before a mammoth crowd. At first I thought it was a online freeze but at a second glance the familiar titles of Iran’s newspapers became apparent. Each was faithfully reporting the Supreme Leader’s trip to Qom, the holy city southwest of Tehran. One front page was barely distinguishable from another.

The website Neda Sabz Azadi took advantage of this comic-tragic state of affairs. Under the headline “Bring a logo, take a newspaper” they spoofed a directive from the “Ministry of Culture’s Press Deputy”.

This timely joke coincided with the day that Reporters Without Borders published its annual Press Freedom Index. Iran classified rock bottom at number 175 of 178 countries.

With the identikit front pages there for all to see, the truth was probably not so far from this five point “leaked” missive. Fiction based on fact from a media well-versed in the language of an authoritarian state. Translation of the “directive” below.

On the occasion of the extremely important trip of our leader — but pertinent to all Muslims in human history — to the holy city of Qom the most important city in the world, photographs and suggested headlines are attached.

For the preservation of the status of your newspaper and the health of its managing directors, pay careful attention to the following points:

1. One photo for half front page usage with at least 75 per cent coverage and up to 150 per cent. Note: Newspapers who have received warnings should make every effort to show their goodwill by printing the photograph at 90 per cent.  Other more insider newspapers know what to do.

2.The use of at least one of the headlines below is obligatory:

* Vaccination by ‘88 intrigue (insider papers to all use this)
[Implying that the people were immunised and united after the 2009 post-election uprising.
* Ghadir-e-Ghom (only for use by the most insider papers)
[Alluding to a place of pilgrimage (of the same name) in Saudi Arabia where the prophet Mohammad spoke.]

  • * The uprising of the people of Qom
  • * National unity
  • * A historical day
  • * Sunshine of revolution in Qom
  • * Dealing with sanctions3. This applies to all economic, sport, cultural, and scientific newspapers, magazines and weeklys published this week, next week and in the subsequent two weeks.4. On Wednesday your headline must be set at three times its usual size. We will pay your paper subsidies.

    5. Publications that do not have the financial means or printing facilities should provide their national identity card and newspaper logo to the press office and we will print it for them.