Paris, 17 July. (IPS) With the Government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi Nezhad, a fanatic Shi’a Muslim, imposing a virtual martial law on the country by increasing pressures on the intellectuals, the students, the women, the workers and the teachers, but particularly targeting the press, which the Government accused recently of waging a creeping coup”, a leading Iranian journalist said the present Administration a “complete dead end”.
Speaking in an exclusive interview with the London-based, Farsi-language pro-reform internet daily “Rooz” (Day) on 15 July 2007, Mr. Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin, the former editor-in-chief of leading reformist dailies like “Jame’eh”, “Neshat”, “Tous” and “Asr-e Azadegan” and now the spokesmanm of the Association For the Defence of Press Freedom, discusses the Minister of Islamic Culture and Guidance’s accusations against the press, the hard days ahead, and the Ahmadi Nezhad Administration’s increasing incompetence.
Ahmadi Nezhad Administration has reached a complete dead-end, particularly when it comes to the press.
Bellow come the full text of the interview obtained in Tehran by Rooz’s journalist, Mr. Omid Me’marian
Rooz (R): The suppression of the press is not a new phenomenon. What is a little surprising is that the Executive branch is taking the lead in this suppression. Is it true that the Administration has become determined to seriously confront critical publications?
Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin (MS): Yes, Mr. Ahmadi Nezhads advisors have announced that a committee is in charge of monitoring the press. Then the Minister of Islamic Culture (and Guidance), Mr. (Mohammad Hoseyn) Saffar Harandi, announced that journalists are planning a (creeping) coup. Perhaps Mr. Saffar Harandi has not reached a level to understand what the meaning of what he says is. They just make accusations on all fronts.
(R): Why does Mr. Saffar Harrandi use phrases that ministers usually shy away from using?
(MS): I believe that the Ahmadi Nezhad Administration has reached a complete dead-end, particularly when it comes to the press. On the one hand, it suffers from severe political divisions and heavy criticism. On the other hand, their main opponents, the reformists, are criticizing them for their handling of domestic and foreign issues. Hence the Administration tries, in its own imagination at least, to manage the crisis by pointing the finger at the press. Essentially, when you look at things from their point of view, you see that they have no other choice: they have to accuse the press. This is nothing new and you should not be surprised by it.
(R): Who is in charge of confronting the press? The judiciary? The Administration? Unknown groups?
(MS): I don’t see a difference. The same team that had previously housed itself in the judiciary is now controlling the Ministry of Culture. We have not forgotten! So now they are doing the same work in the Executive branch, without having the need to go through the Judiciary. Tehran’s Prosecutor General Sa’id Mortazavi and people like him who announce the verdicts just sign the papers. Some “above-the-court” is behind the shutting down of newspapers.
Whoever wants to topple the Fourth Branch of democracy will himself be toppled with it.
(R): Do you think that other publications are in danger of being shut down in the next few days, especially given the remarks of some government officials about crossing red lines?
(MS): Regardless of the meaning of such remarks, you see that even some of the managers in radio stations that aired diverse programs have been removed. Journalists who work in new and innovative fields have been restricted, and so on. These are all signs that the Administration will continue to operate in this manner. We have to make ourselves prepared for even worse developments.
(R): Where is the endpoint of such an approach toward the press?
(MS): There is no endpoint when it comes to confronting the Fourth Branch, the press. I have said before that whoever wants to topple the Fourth Branch of democracy will himself be toppled with it. You must know that the Ahmadi Nezhad Administration is too weak to be able to topple the Fourth Branch of democracy. Take a look at Iran’s recent history: whoever has begun a war with the press has been toppled. Journalists might suffer some occasional setbacks but they will be triumphant at the end. ENDS PRESS CRACKDOWN 17707
firstname.lastname@example.org - 2007.07.15
Editor’s note: Some editing and highlights are by IPS