Insider news & Analysis in Iran

By INU staff

INU - According to the Associated Press, Iranian state television claimed on Friday that mass demonstrations had broken out in the country following Friday prayers, expressing anger over the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Mohammad in Charlie Hebdo, the French satirical newspaper that was the object of a devastating terrorist attack on January 7.

 The state media reports failed to estimate the numbers of people involved in these protests and no independent reports were immediately available to corroborate the government’s claims. Notably, government officials themselves had condemned Charlie Hebdo not only in the wake of the post-attack issue that depicted Mohammad holding a “Je suis Charlie” sign, but also on the very day of the attacks. Foreign Ministry spokesperson Marziyeh Afkham condemned violence in the name of Islam but also described Charlie Hebdo as being guilty of “intellectual violence and extremism.”

It was also reported this week that the Iranian newspaper Mardom-e Emrooz had been banned by the judiciary on the basis of having published a picture of American actor George Clooney wearing a button with the slogan “Je suis Charlie” in solidarity with the victims of this month’s terrorist attack. the Iranian parliament followed up on this ban by introducing emergency legislation that would issue lifetime bans against journalists who repeatedly publish material deemed offensive by the regime.

In response to the legislation, conservative website Raja News wrote: “The banning of Mardom-e Emrooz is only the first step. We thank the judicial authorities for their quick action. Those running this newspaper should face serious consequences. We must root out this type of media and totally eradicate it.”

The extent and the consequences of this constant press repression were on display once again on Friday in an article at The Daily Beast marking 185 days of American-Iranian journalist Jason Rezaian’s detention in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison. But as the article points out, Rezaian’s imprisonment is evidently not related to his press activities, as he was reportedly diligent about remaining without the bounds of the regime’s restrictions. His case is thus an example of the broader pattern of human rights abuses and repressions of speech and association in the Islamic Republic.

Although Iran state media reported on the anti-free speech demonstrations that supposedly took place on Friday, implying that they were spontaneous expressions of sentiment by the Iranian people, earlier in the same week the regime arrested several women’s rights activists with the clear goal of preventing a gathering to express views not endorsed by the government.

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