The government’s official news website has announced that to commemorate the end of the holy Muslim month of Ramadan and following an order by Ahmadinejad, the director of the presidential office Abdolreza Sheikholeslami, has forwarded a memorandum to all executive offices asking them to ignore all complaints against the country’s press and media networks.
The humorous point is that although a similar policy was announced in the initial months of the Ahmadinejad Administration’s coming to power – in an obvious similarity to the Khatami Administration – with much fanfare, in reality this directive and policy was practically trampled on. On the one hand, the administration has claimed not to have filed complaints against any media networks to the public, while on the other the country’s “executive offices” are constantly busy ratcheting national security-intelligence and legal accusations against the press.
We have not forgotten that in August 2008 Fars new agency was confronted and shut down for three days by the administration and the Press Oversight Board simply for publishing a short report regarding the removal of Tahmaseb Mazaheri, the former governor of central bank of Iran. On 25 Shahrivar, a day after submitting a complaint against the press to the judiciary, interior minister Ali Kordan falsely but aggressively claimed on the Majlis floor that his doctoral degree was not phony, although it was later proven that the degree was indeed a counterfeit. The result of this judicial action was the filtering of the Alef website, which belongs to the head of Majlis’ Research Committee Ahmad Tavvakoli, simply for revealing documents that proved that the interior minister’s honorary doctoral degree was fake and counterfeit.
Explaining the administration’s policies in confronting media networks that publish what he called false news, the president’s press advisor, Ali Akbar Javanfekr, announced in Mashhad that such actions are lessons for news agencies and messages for other media outlets.
In any case, one must ask the administration to take true practical measures in that direction if it claims that it is sincere in foregoing all complaints against the press.
In the first step, it is essential that all complaints against journalists and press workers be removed from the action list of all government organizations and officials. In this respect, it is necessary that, on the one hand, all cases fabricated by the executive and administrative organizations, including the ministry of intelligence, be dismissed, while on the other hand implementations of prior verdicts are halted.
The government’s illegal policy of depriving independent and reformist journalists from owning and directing publications must be stopped and the Press Oversight Committee (which is in charge of issuing permits for new publications) must issue permits to reformists in opposition to the trend of the past three years.
It also is necessary to halt implementations of all verdicts emanating from government complaints against journalists (such as payment of fines, imprisonment, and barriers to exiting the country).
Only if the administration succeeds in following this expansive and vast program can Ahmadinejad claim on the eve of the conclusion of his four-year term that he has taken a real rather not a propaganda step to improve freedom of expression and speech. Otherwise, it would be obvious that Ahmadinejad’s aim is only to fool the public opinion in a bid to attract votes in the upcoming presidential election.