An Iranian hard-line weekly that has been one of the most vocal critics of the new administration has been suspended.
The weekly 9 Dey, whose editor is hard-line member of parliament Hamid Rasaei, has received a total of six warnings from the Press Supervisory Board in the last year for violating a number of media laws. The board operates under President Hassan Rouhani’s Ministry of Islamic Culture and Guidance, which is currently headed by Ali Jannati.
Rasaei has responded to the suspension with a series of attacks against the Rouhani administration. On his personal website he published a letter from the secretary of the Press Supervisory Board to the prosecutor in which the stated reasons for the suspension is claims by 9 Dey that Iran’s nuclear scientists have been fired since the Geneva nuclear deal in November 2013. Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, has adamantly denied that any scientists have been fired.
The title of the post of the letter on Rasaei’s website was “Insulting the sacred (i.e., religion) is free but criticizing the administration is forbidden.” The reference is to the administrations leniency with Reformist papers that have questioned various Islamic principles. In another post, Rasaei criticized that when the two Reformists newspapers were subsequently suspended, it was the judiciary that took action and not the administration, but in the case of 9 Dey, it was the administration.
Rasaei also claims that one of the reasons the weekly was suspended was because it published an unflattering photo of Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani sitting while another individual who was standing bent over to kiss his hand. The top story above this photo in the Feb. 28 issue is the article the firing of nuclear scientists.
Rouhani and Rafsanjani are considered to be politically aligned and Rafsanjani has been the target of hard-liners ever since former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took office in 2005. The Culture Ministry’s website did not make a reference to the date of the publication of the Rafsanjani photo.
One of the articles specifically pointed out by the ministry was a November 2013 front page story in large print titled “The Geneva deal: a poisoned chalice.” The term “poison chalice” is a reference to a statement by former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in accepting an end to the Iran-Iraq war. The ministry did not say which media law it violated.
Of the six notices written by the Press Supervisory Board, the most common infractions of 9 Dey were for violating Article 6, section 8 of the media laws, which states that media cannot “defame officials and institutions or any individual of the country or insult an individual which as religious standing, either through publication of a picture or a caricature,” and Article 6, section 11, which forbids “dissemination of rumors or content that is untrue or distorting the content of others.”