PARIS 24 Apr. (IPS) In an unprecedented move, the Iranian Association for the Defence of the Press (ADP), in a open letter, called on Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic to “start from himself answering the people” about his action during the 15 years he is serving as the country’s highest authority.
Published on independent Iranian internet sites both at home and outside, the Association, led by Hojjatoleslam Mohsen kadivar, a scholar, islamist reformer and philosopher, the ADP was referring to the leader’s decision to declare the new Iranian year of 1383 (21 March 2004-20 March 2005) as “The Year of the officials, the Administration and all other governmental organs answering to the people on their deeds”.
Welcoming the decision, the press defence watchdog reminded Mr. Khameneh’i that while he is urging the others to be answerable to the people, yet not only he had failed to answer an earlier letter of the Association concerning the appalling situation of the Iranian press, but also the condition of journalists and the press has deteriorated and the crackdown more repressive.
The Association for the Defence of the Press continue to hold the role of the leader as responsible for most of illegal or semi-legal decisions by un-elected organs under its direct control
“As the regime’s leader, having the greatest responsibilities, you must, before anyone else, be responsible and answer the people’s demand concerning your actions and the conduct of the nation’s affairs during the time you have been in office”, the letter observed.
On the first letter, the IADP had, among other observations, challenged Mr. Khameneh’i to explain his order to the Majles Speaker, four years ago, to withdraw immediately a projected debate about reforming the press law, one that had been approved by the precedent House right at the end of its life, placing drastic restrictions on journalists and the press, a law that the (then) new Majles, dominated by reformists, had wowed to scrap, replacing it by a more open law.
As a result of the order, more than a hundred of independent and reformist publications were closed down and dozen of journalists and commentators, among them some most influential were jailed, silenced or forced to leave the country.
Khameneh’I is finding himself now in the same position were the former Monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah was
“On the first letter, we asked the leader to respect the Constitution, help restoring press freedom and stop organs under his control to in total violation of the law, continue crackdown the press and harass journalists and their families, free all imprisoned newsmen and allow the publication of all the press shut down. Now, we call on him to be the first one in answering people, starting with answering our first letter addressed to him two years ago”, explained Mr. Kadivar in interview with the Persian service of the BBC.
Asked what the ADP expects from the leader, Mr. Kadivar, who had served a year imprisonment for the charges of offending the leader and insulting Islam said: “Just to reply, as we told him that we would consider his answer as a parameter for the sincerity of other officials answering for their deeds and undertakings while in office”.
Analysts say though asking such questions to Mr. Khameneh’i is not against the Constitution, but in a system where the leader is considered as the representative of God on earth, the Association’s letter is quite unusual and could send the authors to prison.
Most of the Iranian political dissidents like Dr. Qasem Sho’leh Sa’di, Dr. Mohammad Mohsen Sazegara, student’s leaders and some reformist lawmakers who had in the past addressed open letters to Mr. Khameneh’i, criticising his domestic and foreign policies and even questioning his religious title have landed in jail, accused, among other charges, of “insulting the leader”, they noted.
“The Association for the Defence of the Press continue to hold the role of the leader as responsible for most of illegal or semi-legal decisions by un-elected organs under its direct control, like the Judiciary, the Council of the Guardians, the Assembly for Discerning the State’s Interests or the Voice and Visage (Radio and Television) restricting the freedom of the press and journalists”, the Association said.
The ADP was published at a time that Ayatollah Khameneh’i also joined the increasing number of Iranian officials creating their own web logs.
“Since you have not dared to answer us in the one hand and has declared this year as that of answering, we ask urge to start by answering our first letter, observing that there could be no answering without questioning, a right that cannot exist in the absence of free press and critical newspapers. In a country were critics and loyal dissidents are deprived of their right of criticism and independent journalists and commentators are placed behind bars on charges of offending you, who can one expect people to ask officials”, the letter said.
“Until now most people wanting to air their criticism Mr. Khameneh’i would use the un-elected organs he controls, calling on him to be an impartial mediator, acting as the guide of Iranian people, nut now it seems that facing his indifference to their remarks and demands, they are now targeting himself directly”, one analyst told Iran Press Service on condition of anonymity.
Says Mr. Mas’oud Behnood, a veteran Iranian journalist now based in England: “Khameneh’I is finding himself now in the same position were the former Monarch, Mohammad Reza Shah was. Becoming the leader of the conservatives and a staunch and autoritative outspoken critic of the reformists and dissidents, Khameneh’i is considered as the sole responsible for the nation’s miseries at home, the unpopularity of the system, the growing alienation of the people, even the devout, with the Islam he represents as well as Iran’s isolation on the international scene”. ENDS IADP LETTER 24404