Newspaper Close to Khamenei Under Fire

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The conservative Alef website interviewed four different influential individuals on their opinions about the recent wave of criticism against hard-line newspaper Kayhan, which is generally believed to represent the views of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Although Kahyan was first established in 1943, today it operates as one of the most consistently hard-line newspapers in Iran which attacks Reformists and other politicians, sometimes with wild accusations. Its editor, Hossein Shariatmadari, is appointed by Khamenei and before the June 2013 election, he pleaded in an editorial with the Principlist candidates to unite to prevent a Rouhani victory, believing that some of Rouhani’s supporters are close to “Americans, Zionists and George Soros.”

Tehran professor and political analyst Sadegh Zibakalam took perhaps the strongest position against Kayhan. On Shariatmadari’s criticism of political events, Zibakalam used the expression, “Whatever is in the jug is what will come out of it.” Zibakalam added, “No one should expect more from Shariatmadari and Kayhan than this. It is easy to understand why he acts with such spite and hatred. The reason is that Shariatmadari could not dream that the candidate representing his views would receive 5 million votes and the candidate opposing his views would receive 18 million votes.”

“It can be predicted,” said Zibakalam, that “from today, the sword that Shariatmadari pulled out against the Reformists and what he did to them and [former president Mohammad] Khatami, he will do to Rouhani as well. I believe that all those who have been accused of being anti-revolutionary, as far as damaging the system, have not damaged the system as much as Kayhan has.” Zibakalam warned that Shariatmadari and Kayhan need to be controlled.

One of Khamenei’s top advisers in Sepah (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps), General Yadollah Javani, came to Kayhan’s defense. Of the recent criticism, he said that “Regarding what we see about Kayhan, it has a destructive aspect, and certainly this has been organized. Individuals have cooperated to present this criticism. The timing and message all at once could not have happened without cooperation.” Javani said that given that Kayhan’s budget is provided by public funds, its positions are “in the same general approach of the system,” as opposed to one specific group within the establishment.

On Kahyan’s warnings to Rouhani about using “companions of the seditionists,” Javani said, “Some political activists claim that those arrested in 2009 are innocent and want them to be freed,” but they have been “judged according to the law.” When asked why certain individuals who have been repeatedly accused in Kahyan regarding those protests have not been tried, Javani said that “Khatami’s position in 2009 is not acceptable … and it’s possible one day there will be a trial.” Kayhan has repeatedly accused the former president of being a “spy and fifth column.”

Principilist figure Abbas Salimi Namin criticized Kayhan’s “incorrect positions” against the incoming administration and the labeling of individuals as “spies.” However, he criticized Alef as well, saying, “Kayhan should be critiqued, but Alef should not enter this scene that’s been laid out.” He called those who work for Kayhan “pure individuals who at times also make mistakes.” He added, “The new administration will most likely attack Kayhan as well,” in a response to the attacks. “So we cannot kick Kayhan out of the scene and add our forces to the forces who support Rouhani that want to eliminate Kayhan.”

Prominent Reformist figure and journalist Abbas Abdi said that the issue with Kayhan has more to do with “legal inequality” than anything else. He said that if the legal concessions afforded Kayhan and other papers “are ended, we will see which individual, person or newspaper dares to make accusations against others.” Of Kayhan’s accusations, Abdi said, “If the accusation is correct, then why is the accused walking around, and no one bothers him? If it is incorrect, then why is Kayhan making these accusations?

Abdi said that the immunity with which Kayhan operates in spreading accusations “is such that it is a tragedy for our society.”