Sunday, June 1, 2008

Fars News Agency Shut Down

The Iranian authorities today shut down the Fars News Agency. Fars was an influential, conservative and the oldest news agency in Iran.

Fars last posted a news item at 00:17 on Monday 2 June, Iran’s time [15:43 EST, Sunday]. IRNA, the official Iranian news agency, broke the news of Fars closure at 00.22 on Monday.

IRNA quoted an official of Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance as accusing Fars of publishing “lies” and “disturbing public opinion.”

This is disturbing news for the community of Iranian journalists.

(2 June): Reports from Tehran indicate that Fars will be re-opened on 5 June.

On Sunday night, Fars published a report on upcoming changes in Ahmadinejad’s economic team, including sacking of newly-appointed governor of Central Bank. Ahmadinejad reportedly wanted to force the governor to cut the interest rate that commercial banks charge their customers to 9.5%, amid resistance from the Central Bank due to current high inflation, with a rate twice as high.

After pressure from government, Fars deleted the news from its site and published a new report denying that the central bank governor was going to be ousted, at 00:17 Monday morning. Apparently this was not enough. It is now reported that Fars would resume its activities on 5 June.

Correction: IRNA broke the news of Fars closure at 22:29 Tehran time on Sunday. Fars continued posting news items on its site until Monday morning. It suspended operations after it received a written confirmation of its suspension from the ministry of culture and Islamic guidance.


Joseph Sixpack said...

Do we know what, specifically, the goverment deemed to be lies or disturbing public opinion? Or was this just an ongoing spat that came to a head?

Nader Uskowi said...

Hi Joseph,

I just posted an update. The story revolves around the government’s economic policies. Inflation is getting out of hand in Iran, partly due to current government policies of converting the petro dollars (a lot of it these days!) into toumans and pouring the cash into economy. The government is putting inflation rate at over 18%, with Iran analyst believing it actually exceeds 25%. Ahmadinejad also wanted to cut the commercial interest rate to 9.5%. This is not a sound policy, and central bank governor, a highly respected and influential economic policy maker, must have resisted it.

There were also rumors that Ahmadinejad’s VP, Parviz Davoudi, himself a former economics professor and a chairman at Beheshti University, would replace Tahmasb Mazaheri as the central bank governor.

Fars is guilty of telling the story! Ahmadinejad’s administration like to have a monopoly on storytelling.