By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
The spokesman for Iran's judiciary has confirmed that Iranian media remain banned from mentioning former reformist President Mohammad Khatami and publishing his comments, statements, and pictures.
Speaking to journalists on February 16, Gholamhossein Mohseni-Ejei said media outlets that violate the ban would be dealt with.
He made the comments in response to a question regarding "a warning to media by Tehran's prosecutor office" not to publish Khatami's name and photographs or cover news related to him.
Iranian opposition website Kalame.com reported last month that a judiciary official had summoned newspaper editors and told them not to publish news and information or even photographs of Khatami, who has angered hard-liners over his support for Iran's opposition movement.
Mohseni-Ejei, who did not mention Khatami by name, said there was a regulation that prohibits media from publishing photos and news about the former president and it remained in place. It wasn't clear from his comments when the order was issued.
Mohseni-Ejei said that the judiciary could make decisions regarding individuals who are considered "the leaders of the sedition," a term officials use to refer to opposition leaders Mir Hossein Musavi, his wife Zahra Rahnavard, and reformist cleric Mehdi Karrubi, as well as Khatami.
The former insiders fell out of grace for accusing the authorities of mass fraud in the 2009 reelection of former President Mahmud Ahmadinejad and condemning the brutal state crackdown against the tens of thousands of citizens who took to the streets in protest.
The prohibition on publishing the names and photographs of Musavi, Rahnavard, Karrubi, and Khatami or cover their statements, news, and information about them was reportedly put in place in the months after the 2009 mass street protests that shook Iran.
Opposition websites reported in 2010 that officials had justified the "secret ruling" by saying that keeping society and public opinion calm was the main responsibility of the media and that news about the opposition figures would have "negative" influence on society.
Since the 2014 election of self-proclaimed moderate President Hassan Rohani, who has promised more press freedom, there have been rare mentions of the opposition figures in the Iranian press. The warning appears to be a reaction to this very limited coverage.
Kalame.com reported that newspapers have recently been warned that when it comes to photos and news about Khatami, the ban includes internal pages and corner content.
There has been no official reaction to the ban from Khatami, who was president from 1997 to 2005. He remains popular despite his failure to bring promised social and political reforms. All his efforts were thwarted by powerful conservatives who control key state institutions.
In recent years, Khatami has made several calls for the release of Musavi, Rahnavard, and Karrubi, who were put under house arrest four years ago for challenging the establishment and refusing to be silenced.
Last year, several lawmakers called for a judicial order on Khatami to ban him from some activities, including giving speeches and traveling outside the country.
Khatami was reportedly banned from traveling outside Iran during Ahmadinejad's presidency.
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