Nearly a decade has passed since the Iranian regime sttepped up its psychological, judicial and security intimidation of the press. The green light was given by the supreme leader, when in a speech, without providing any legal or judicial basis, he referred to the press as the den of the “enemy”. Finally, in the spring of 1379 , Ayatollah Khamenei delivered a pointed speech at Tehran’s Great Mossala [“prayer ground”]. Soon after, the wholesale shut down of newspapers and imprisonment of journalists began.
A new stage of that project began a few weeks ago. It has been said that a team composed of four individuals has been put in charge of organizing the suppression and intimidation of the press and active journalists. The four members of the team are minister of culture and Islamic guidance Saffar Harandi, minister of ontelligence Mohseni Ezhei, minister of the interior Mostafa Pourmohammadi, and the infamous prosecutor general of Tehran, Saeed Mortazavi. So far, they have banned Ham-Mihan Mosharekat newspapers: both measures carry a strong message for former presidents Hashemi Rafsanjani and Khatami, as well as their supporters.
Despite recent developments, it seems that the scope of the project is actually much larger and broader than current measures. As we get closer to the upcoming Majlis [“Parliamentary”] elections, and as the Ahmadinejad administration’s incompetence becomes more pronounced and the conservatives get more disunited, journalists and editors will face even more pressure and intimidation.
When the supreme leader announces in his official speeches and remarks that Iran has no obligations toward international women’s rights conventions, it is natural for lower-level officials to ignore “domestic laws” and disregard “international conventions” to which the Islamic Republic is a signatory.
It is also natural that the Iranian press and journalists, as well as their families, are pressured and intimidated more in face of the illegal and unlawful behavior of the country’s officials.
It is under such circumstances that the minister of culture, as well as others inside Ahmadinejad administration, give themselves the right to act so unlawfully, and regularly accuse the country’s publications, especially its newspapers. But they are unaware of the fundamental point that accusations such as “instigating a coup,” or “attempting to overthrow the regime,” which are born out of a security-military culture – and which herald future crackdowns – are unable to stop the age-old practice of criticizing tyranny. Minister of culture Saffar Harandi admits, “When we say a journalist is instigating a coup, we mean that an individual is part of a plan to overthrow [the regime]. We don’t mean that a group of individuals are meeting in a military barrack and planning an attack.” The fear that despots have about being “overthrown” and “losing power” – which is voiced in their daily terminology – clearly indicates that Ahmadinejad and his bosses have lost their cool minds. They fear an imminent fundamental change in the country’s power structure. They don’t seem to realize that they cannot delay the fate tha awaits them even if they make baseless accusations and create an environment of terror and tyranny in Iran.
The Almighty, as clearly expressed in the Quran, warns rulers from shutting their eyes in face of reality and their weaknesses, and instead blaming others and accusing them of “instigating a coup” and “attempting to overthrow the regime.” The rulers of the Islamic Republic must ponder the Almighty’s words, which is the best guide for the lives of human beings, society, and rulers: “Every group has a time, and when the time’s end approaches, it arrives at a precise time that is neither too soon nor a moment too late.”