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Iranian Judiciary Shuts Down Newspaper for Publishing "I am Charlie Too" Quote

Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

Two days after the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan demanded judicial authorities close down reformist newspaper Mardom-e Emrooz, which was only in operation for 16 days, the newspaper was shut down by orders from Branch 2 of Media Court of the Iranian Judiciary for publishing “I’m Charlie” on its front page.

The reformist Mardom-e Emrooz began publication on December 27, 2014. In its January 14, 2015 issue, the newspaper published a large photograph of the American actor George Clooney at the Golden Globe Awards, above which was printed “I am Charlie, too,” quoting Clooney during his acceptance speech, when he remembered the slain Charlie Hebdo cartoonists.

This week Kayhan criticized the French publication Charlie Hebdo for featuring another cartoon of the Islamic prophet Mohammad. In its January 15 issue, Kayhan wrote, “the cartoonists for the obscene publication Charlie Hebdo...were mahdur al-dam [those whose blood is worthless because they violated Islam],” even though the Iranian paper also sought to dissociate itself from the attackers, whom they similarly described as “a few mahdur al-dam terrorists.”

In a letter to Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, eighty Members of Parliament warned against “discriminatory treatment of the media.” They wrote, “Why doesn’t the Press Oversight Committee issue a warning to the newspaper that has promoted the French publication that has insulted the Prophet of Islam?”

Zohreh Tayebzadeh, a Member of Parliament, threatened the Culture Minister on January 15, that “if he does not assertively confront this newspaper, he would be the subject of an impeachment himself.”

The Yalesarat weekly, the ultra conservative publication of Iran’s Ansar-e Hezbollah, implicitly defended the attack on the Charlie Hebdo offices, and said “Murder of those who insult the Prophet is a welcome phenomenon in the acts that took place in this story, which must be viewed separately from the perpetrators of the act.”

The Kayhan article also condemned domestic publications and a statement by Iranian journalists that were supportive of the Charlie Hebdo publication, and called them “dependent on European countries and the US.” The article concluded that Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance must seriously crack down on these publications.

Kayhan’s article took direct aim at Mardom-e Emrooz, after the newspaper published an article on Charlie Hebdo on January 13. Referring to the reformist publication as a “serial newspaper,” Kayhan indicated its dismay at the re-emergence in new publications of the editorial staffs of reformist publications that had been repeatedly closed. “Despite clear violation of Paragraph 7, Article 6 of the Press Law, with the Press Oversight Committee’s and the Judiciary’s silence, the serial newspaper supportive of those who insulted the holy realm of the Islam Prophet has not been found deserving of punishment!”

Kayhan alleged that reformist newspapers and media have displayed “anti-Islamic conduct” in the past, and that “unfortunately, except for a change in the name of the serial medium after its closure, they have borne no further costs.”

Kayhan criticized a statement by 185 Iranian journalists condemning the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attack, and said that it was an inappropriate act that received widespread attention in “hostile media.”

“It is not clear for what reason Mardom-e Emrooz Newspaper, with a Chief Editor who is a convict with a record in the 2009 sedition, has published an article in support of those who insulted the Prophet of Islam,” referring to Mohammad Ghoochani, the newspaper’s editor who has run several reformist newspapers. Conservative officials refer to the peaceful protests that followed the disputed presidential election in Iran in 2009 as “sedition.”

Demands for closure of Mardom-e Emrooz gained momentum when the Iranian state television joined Kayhan and other conservative publications and ran several news segments condemning Mardom-e Emrooz. In a news segment on January 15, the state television reported that despite a written warning by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to the Mardom-e Emrooz newspaper, “there will be a special session of the Press Oversight Committee to discuss and review the subject of this newspaper next Monday [January 19, 2015].”

“As the son of a cleric, our expectation of the Minister of [Culture and Islamic] Guidance is to ban Mardom-e Emrooz Newspaper,” Saleh Eskandari, Head of the Basij Media Research Center, told Fars News Agency on January 15. [link:]

In contrast to these views, clerics such as Ahmad Khatami, Nasser Makarem Shirazi, and the Iranian president Hassan Rouhani have condemned the terrorist attack in their speeches. “[Acts of] terror are not appropriate for friends nor for foes; from Islam’s viewpoint, [acts of] terror are forbidden and condemned,” Ayatollah Makarem Shirazi told his students on January 14. “We strongly condemn the terrorist attacks in France, and believe that Islam does not allow the murder of innocents,” said the conservative Friday Imam of Tehran, Ahmad Khatami on January 9.

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