Reporters Without Borders today firmly condemned the closure of three leading reformist newspapers for an indefinite period. "This wave of censorship is totally unacceptable," the press freedom organisation said. "Political repression is now compounding the judicial harassment that Iran's journalists have been undergoing in recent weeks."
The closure of the reformist daily Shargh and the monthlies Nameh and Hafez was ordered yesterday by the Commission for Authorising and Monitoring the Press, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.
The commission claimed it had sent Shargh 70 warnings calling for its managing editor, Mehdi Rahmanian, to be replaced, but Rahmanian denied ever receiving the warnings in an interview for the German public radio station Deutsche Welle.
The closure was also reportedly prompted by a cartoon of horse and a donkey on a chessboard. As the donkey was outlined in white, it was seen as an allusion to a comment by President Mahmud Ahmadinejad in which he said he had felt himself surrounded by light when he addressed the UN general assembly last year. The authorities therefore saw the cartoon as an unacceptable portrayal of Iran's debate with the western countries about its nuclear programme.
Shargh has been the target of harassment ever since it was launched four years ago. It has been under threat from the courts twice and was already temporarily closed down in 2003.
A monthly magazine sympathetic to the liberal opposition, Nameh was one of the few remaining Iranian publications to maintain their independence. Its open, critical style and the fact that it ran articles by journalists and intellectuals who were banned elsewhere had always disturbed the government. Its managing editor, Kivan Samimi Behbani, had been interrogated by the authorities in September 2004 and March 2005.
The commission gave no reason for closing Hafez, which takes its name from a leading Iranian poet.
... Payvand News - 9/13/06 ... --