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01/27/15

Iranian MPs Move to Permanently Ban Journalists Connected to Shuttered Publications

Source: International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran

A few days after the Iranian Judiciary ordered the reformist Mardom-e Emrooz newspaper banned, ultra conservative members of the Iranian Parliament are working on legislation to permanently ban journalists who have worked for reformist publications that were shut down by the authorities. The measure is meant to ensure that such journalists will not resurface and continue their work in another publication.

Hardliner cleric MP Hamid Rasaei told the conservative Tasnim News agency this week that an urgent initiative has been presented to Parliament in which certain members of the press will be banned from working as journalists. The stated reason for the initiative was to “prevent insults on the sacred.”

“We are preparing an urgent plan that would require the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance to prevent an individual [from continuing his] work in the press and his assumption of responsibilities in this area, after media under his management has been repeatedly banned for insulting the sacred,” said Hamid Rasaei.

Expressing dissatisfaction with the Culture Ministry’s inattention to the issue of journalists continuing their work in new publications after being shut down, the MP said, “Unfortunately, the same level of scrutiny implemented in other areas such as health, food, and medicine is not paid to the area of culture, and the same sensitivities are not observed among cultural managers.”

“We are concerned that just like the years of American reforms [referring to reformist Mohammad Khatami’s presidency, 1996-2004], and as a result of the misconduct of the Culture Ministry and the Government’s support for this sick media current, the press would again turn into enemy bases, [necessitating] the Supreme Leader to warn against certain media’s having turned into enemy bases,” he said.

Numerous newspapers and other publications have been banned during the past three decades. Following each closure, many journalists have lost their livelihood, some have been interrogated, and several have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms, or have had to flee the country under pressure from authorities. If this initiative is approved, pressure on the profession of journalism will be further exacerbated in Iran.

In a January 22 article, Shargh Newspaper questioned the lawfulness of such an initiative, adding that this effort by hardline Members of Parliament seeks to ban Mohammad Ghouchani, the Chief Editor of the banned Mardom-e Emrooz.


Left: Hardliner cleric MP Hamid Rasaei
Right: Mohammad Ghoochani, the Chief Editor of the banned Mardom-e Emrooz

“Journalism is not a professional perk, which may be rescinded...this is an inherent right and no one can be deprived of it,” says the Shargh Daily article.

On January 15, 2015, two days after the conservative Iranian newspaper Kayhan demanded judicial authorities close down the reformist newspaper Mardom-e Emrooz for publishing “I’m Charlie” on its front page, the newspaper was shut down by orders from Branch 2 of the Media Court of the Iranian Judiciary .

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.

Mohammad Ghouchani has served as Chief Editor to newspapers such as Shargh, Aseman, Hammihan, and Etemad Melli, all of which were banned at some point.

Ghouchani will be informed of his charges at the Culture and Media Court on January 24, according to Mahmoud Alizadeh Tabatabaee, the lawyer representing Mardom-e Emrooz’s Managing Editor, Ahmad Sattari, who told Tasnim.

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