Thursday, July 5, 2007

The Press Under Attack

Iran’s daily Ham-Mihan was banned and the news agency ILNA shut down its operation.

Ham-Mihan, managed by Tehran’s former mayor Gholamhossein Karbaschi, received permission to publish only a few months ago. It produced 42 editions before being banned.

In its last issue, Ham-Mihan ran a story under the headline, “The Energy Minister Can Ration Electricity.” The piece touched raw nerves of the Iranian officials, especially Ahmadinejad’s, who referred to it in his remarks during his tour of Asaluyeh petrochemical facilities along with the Venezuelan president last week.

In an accompanying supplement, Ham-Mihan also ran a piece criticizing Ayatollah Jannati, the head of ultra-conservative Guardian Council.

ILNA, the Iranian Labor News Agency, shut down its operations even after its founding director, Masoud Haydari, resigned to save the agency. ILNA had won praise for its professional reporting on labor issues and labor protests in Iran.

The government had increasingly put pressure on ILNA to tone down its reports. The day before its closure, Aftab Yazd had reported that “the board of directors of this non-governmental news agency has agreed to the resignation of ILNA’s managing director in order to reduce the existing pressures” (Aftab Yazd, 2 July).

Farhang-e Ashti website reported on 3 July that, “the president and the ministers of labor and social affairs and culture and Islamic guidance are among the most important critics of the news agency [ILNA] which had been exerting immense pressure on them.”

Iran analyst expect that the next target of Ahmadinejad’s government would be Etemad-e Melli, a reformist paper founded by former Majlis speaker Mehdi Karrubi.

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