Iranian Government Bans Newspaper Owned by Nuclear Deal Critic

AFP Photo/Atta Kenare
AFP Photo/Atta Kenare

AFP News reports that a paper called the 9th Dey Weekly has been shut down by Iran’s “Press Supervisory Board,” which also issued warning notices to the Kayhan Daily and a news website called Raja–all critics of the nuclear deal Iran brokered during the P5+1 talks.

All other media outlets were “urged” to “consider national interests and security and carry out criticism in the framework of responsible freedom.”

The offending outlets are “alleged to have insulted Iranian officials as well as violating orders on coverage of the deal issued by the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC),” according to AFP, which explains that the SNSC is “the country’s highest security committee and it oversees the nuclear talks under the auspices of supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.”

A spokesman for the “culture ministry” emphasized that Iran’s nuclear deal is “an important matter that was achieved under the supervision of the supreme leader … and cannot be easily criticized with unjust comments.” The list of things that can be easily criticized in Iran, justly or unjustly, is notoriously short.

This is not the first time the 9th Dey Weekly has been banned for criticizing the nuclear deal. Its owner, “ultra-conservative lawmaker Hamid Rasaie,” said it had happened twice before, so the ban is “no strange news.”

Rasaie charged that his government “has proven much less tolerant of criticism than it claims,” which is really saying something because the theocracy’s claims of tolerance for opposing viewpoints have been extremely modest.

AFP reports the “new guidance on media coverage of the historic accord” was only issued last week. IranWire provides a review of what this “guidance” entails:

In the directive, journalists are forbidden from publishing any articles that suggest rifts among “high-ranking authorities in Iran” — referring to President Rouhani’s administration and the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei and his closest allies. In addition, journalists have been told to not report on anything that “indoctrinates” the public into believing that the nuclear deal goes “against the nation, Islam, or revolutionary values and ideals”; they have also been instructed not to report anything that might “polarize society.”

Quoting foreign ministers or members of the negotiating teams from any of the P5+1 countries is also off limits, unless the reporter allows for a “decent response” from Iranian negotiators.

In addition to bans on general criticism of the Vienna talks and the resulting deal, members of the press have been informed they should always emphasize the fact “American extremists and Zionists are opposed to the deal” and have “respect and praise for [Iranian] negotiators” in all news reports, demonstrating their “courage, politeness and professionalism” at all times. Journalists must frame the talks as a “unique” political event and historical agreement.

It is not clear from these reports precisely which of the “guidelines” 9th Dey Weekly violated, but probably not the one about always emphasizing that only American extremists and Zionists oppose the deal in the Western world. The name of the newspaper commemorates demonstrations against the 2009 pro-democracy “Green Revolution” in Iran, which was ultimately suppressed with a dash of murder.

In the past, the Iranian government has also banned newspapers for such crimes as reporting on actor George Clooney’s support for Charlie Hebdo magazine after Islamists slaughtered its staff in Paris.