Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Iran's Culture Minister Warns Press

Sandier Saffari, Rooz Online:
In his recent comments on the press, the hardline minister of culture of Iran warned the media of their role in informing the public.

In his comments published in Iran's official news agency, IRNA last Thursday, he expressed dissatisfaction over a number of publications and criticized their attitude towards Ahmadinejad's government and his policies. He accused the press of being retaliatory and said, "It is regretful that some publications focus on controversial issues and one wonders whether their reactions are in fact a retaliation of past failures.

Pinpointing the criticism that some Iranian dailies had expressed with ayatollah Ahmad Janati, Tehran's Friday prayer leader, the minister said, "There is no reason for a daily to question ayatollah Janati's comments on the president's divine inspiration (regarding the recent letter to the US) … . How can they be so narrow-minded? They should not be involved in political games and should not question reality.

These comments are officially published at a time when some reformist newspaper last week published the letter that Mehdi Karoubi had written and other politicians had expressed in criticism of ayatollah Ahmad Janati’s unequivocal support of president Ahmadinejad letter to the US. Jomhouri-e Eslami last week went out of its way to call for a full support of the president in his gesture to the US.

Ever since Hussein Saffar Harandi was mentioned as a possible cabinet minister for culture in Ahmadinejad’s government, observers warned that this signaled a new period of restrictions for the media and cultural activities. Their warnings are now materializing. When the new minister took up his office, a list of decrees and instructions from his desk have crated new limitations for the press, barred women from staying at their place of work after 6pm in the evening, and other measures.

What was most alarming to observers was that the press has been put under check by the events and unrest in the provinces. Just last week, Harandi told the press, “I advise the press not to play your game in the enemy field.” READ MORE

Are the warnings of the ministers indicative of new policies at the cabinet level?