Monday, September 24, 2007

Iran Closes Down Baztab


Iran’s most popular news website, Baztab, was closed down by the government. The judiciary police sealed off Baztab offices late on Wednesday. Iran’s judiciary denied an appeal by Baztab management to reverse the government’s order and the news website announced the closure on Sunday.

Baztab was critical of Ahmadinejad’s administration. The government has been filtering the site since April. Prior to filtering, the site had some 250,000 readers daily. The number dropped to 140,000 per day after the filtering, and now the site is shut down.

Baztab was founded by a former commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corp. (IRGC), retired Maj. Gen. Mohsen Rezaie, who is currently the executive secretary of Iran’s Expediency Council, a body charged with resolving legislative disputes and chaired by former president Ayatollah Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

Rafsanjani is currently regarded as the leader of loyal opposition. Rezaie, along with Ayatollah Karubi, a former Majlis speakers, and former president Ayatollah Khatami, are considered as part of Rafsanjani’s camp and are expected to challenge Ahmadinejad and the radical fundamentalists during the upcoming Majlis elections (March 2008) and the 2009 presidential elections.

Iran analysts expect the current onslaught on opposition press to continue until the Majlis elections. The moderates and the reformists are expected to win, if the elections are not rigged. Ahmadinejad’s administration will do everything it can to prevent such defeat.

Baztab closure comes after Shargh, a pro-reform and the most popular newspaper in Iran, was closed down in August.

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