The National Secular Society‘s Newsline has just popped into my inbox and it contains a story that passed me – and I suspect a lot of others – by this week.
Iran’s most prominent reformist newspaper has been closed down for failing to remove an executive accused of publishing “blasphemous” articles and insulting officials. The country’s press supervisory board, run by the culture ministry, ordered the closure of the Persian daily paper Sharq on Monday after it failed to replace managing director Muhammad Rahmanian. The board said the paper had been given one month to replace him, but after the deadline ran out on Sunday he remained at the helm. “Because of 70 cases of violations, including insulting officials, religious and national figures, publishing blasphemous articles and also articles creating discord … the board demanded the replacement,” the board said in a statement.
Their competitor (I imagine) The Tehran Times ran the announcement with practically no background or reaction, but the online Iran Press Service (which publishes in English from abroad) gave a lot of background in their article One Last Nail To The Coffin Of Independent Media in Iran.
Describing Sharq as “the country’s most influential and popular newspaper”, they noted:
“We are in a vicious circle, for, as a result of these pressures, closures and crackdowns, more Iranian intellectuals, journalists, scholars and others take refuge with outside-based media to express themselves and are immediately accused of collaboration with foreign media and arrested.”
Sharq is just the latest victim of a concerted attack on the media. The Guardian report on the issue notes that “another Iranian newspaper has also been closed down – political monthly Nameh has also been shut for blasphemy and insulting religious figures. The paper’s editor, Majid Tavallaei, said it was closed for publishing a poem by dissident female poet Simin Behbahani, according to an Associated Press report.”
The Guardian story also noted that “Iranian courts have closed more than 100 publications since 2000, most of which were reformist.”
In their report, South African online news portal News24.com says that another paper, the State-owned Iran was closed in May for publishing a cartoon that offended the Azeris and led to several days of unrest in northwestern Azerbaijan province. The cartoonist and the editor-in-chief of the daily remain in jail.