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Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Iran

Publisher Committee to Protect Journalists
Publication Date February 1999
Cite as Committee to Protect Journalists, Attacks on the Press in 1998 - Iran, February 1999, available at: [accessed 22 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

As of December 31, 1998

Since President Muhammad Khatemi took office in August 1997, Iran's press has benefited from his agenda of social and political reforms. Newspapers are now tackling political subjects that would have been unthinkable only a year earlier. But almost as quickly as journalists realized their new freedoms, the press found itself the target of a relentless attacks from hard-line supporters of Iran's spiritual guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

In what proved to be a year of dramatic developments, several newspapers were suspended or permanently closed, while journalists were arrested and prosecuted for their reporting on a variety of sensitive political topics. To most observers, the clampdown against the more vocal press was part of the power struggle being waged between supporters of Khatemi's reformist program and Khamenei loyalists. For much of the year, Khamenei exerted his control over the judiciary to harass or close outspoken newspapers for their reporting on such subjects as criticism of the Islamic Republic and its philosophical foundations.

The pro-Khatemi daily Jameah, which in a short span of time had made a name for itself through its bold coverage of social and political issues, was closed in July after a court found it guilty of publishing insults and false information in its criticisms of public officials. Jameah's successor, the daily Tous, was closed in September for "publication of articles against national security and general interests." Several members of the newspaper's staff were arrested and held without charge for several days.

One day before Tous's closure, Khamenei publicly accused certain newspapers of succumbing to Western attitudes about Islam and the revolution. He said, "I am giving final notice to officials to act and see which newspapers violate the limits of freedom."

By year's end, nine newspapers – Rah-e-Noh, Tavana, Jameah Salem, Khaneh, Jameah, Tous, Asre-e-Ma, Sobh, and Gozaresh-e-Ruz – were either permanently closed or suspended for long periods. And journalists – including some from the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) – were arrested or indicted for publications offenses for their reporting on controversial subjects. Several were fined or handed suspended prison sentences and fines. Explaining the crackdown, Khamenei said,"Critique and criticism of the government's policies are not bad, but when someone attempts to undermine the foundations of the government, it is a treason and not freedom of expression."

In the face of mounting government pressure, journalists remained defiant toward official attempts to limit their freedom. And they enjoyed support from students, who in December demonstrated in Tehran against the state's repressive measures against the press.

The disappearances and suspicious deaths of several writers and free expression advocates in the last months of the year sent a chilling message to independent-minded writers and journalists alike.

Attacks on the Press in Iran in 1998

09/29/98Jameah SalemLegal Action
09/29/98Siovash Guran, Jameah SalemLegal Action
09/22/98Muhammad Reza Sadeq, IRNAHarassed
09/22/98Ali Reza Khosravi, IRNAHarassed
09/15/98Hamid Reza Jalaipour, TousImprisoned
09/15/98Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, TousImprisoned
09/15/98Muhammad Javadi-Hessar, TousImprisoned
09/15/98Ibrahim Nabavi, TousImprisoned
08/03/98Muhammad Reza Za'eri, KhanehLegal Action
08/01/98Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, TousAttacked
08/01/98TousHarassed, Censored
07/13/98Ali Mohammad Mahdavi-Khorrami, Gozaresh-e-RuzLegal Action
06/10/98JameahLegal Action
06/10/98Hamid Reza Jalaipour, JameahLegal Action
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