Iran paper defends choice to doctor photo of Ashton with activists

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A hard-line Iranian newspaper has claimed that the erasing of a woman from a photograph of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton meeting with women activists in Iran was done to avoid accusations of labeling her a “seditionist.” The woman, Gohar Esghi, is the mother of blogger Sattar Beheshti, who died in police custody.

Yesterday, Javan, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard, cut Esghi from its front-page image. The headline above the picture read, “Meeting with seditionists is interference in domestic affairs.” The doctored picture of Ashton meeting prominent activist Narges Mohammadi at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran immediately went viral on social media.

Javan explained that its headline and picture were were chosen to illustrate that a number of Iranian parliament members had objected to Ashton’s meeting with the “2009 seditionist,” a term hard-liners use for those who protested the 2009 election results.

The article clarified that Eshghi, who was identified as the mother of a “blogger who, due to infringements by police, died while in detention,” was also in the original picture and that Javan “did not want to introduce her as a seditionist. Therefore, we were forced to erase the image of this respectable mother from this report so there is no doubt with the readers about her being a seditionist.”

The article went on, “This action was enough for the seditionist media … and the BBC, whose role in the 2009 sedition was clear to everyone, to pursue a destructive path against Javan.”

The Javan article admonished, “Using people’s emotions to agitate readers in the direction of sedition is a proven policy.” The article criticized some domestic media outlets for focusing on the meeting with Beheshti’s mother instead of focusing on Ashton meeting with a “2009 seditonist.”

Javan claimed that if it had not removed the image of Beheshti’s mother, Reformist newspapers would have criticized it for labeling her a “seditionist.”

Iranian officials have continued to criticize Ashton for meeting with women activists during her trip to Iran.

Today via Javan, the head of Iran’s judiciary, Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, asked, “Where in the world do they allow a foreigner to come in [a country] and let that person go wherever they want and meet whoever they want?”

He continued, “If it is to be that this will continue — trips such as these — and actions to take place against the security interests of the country, the judiciary will take action, and the Foreign Ministry will be responsible for the future consequences.” Visits by foreign officials fall under the purview of Iran’s Foreign Ministry. The spokesperson for the ministry mildly criticized the meeting without taking responsibility for it.

A group of students also reportedly protested outside of the Austrian Embassy in Tehran today to voice their objection to allowing the meeting to take place there. According to Afkar News, there were many security officers present to keep the peace. The protest was announced in advance, and the embassy was closed today in response.