Naharnet reports that Mahmoud Doaei, the managing editor of Iran’s Ettelaat daily newspaper, has continued to speak out against restrictions on the media in spite of having been indicted on Tuesday for prior defiance of those restrictions. The case specifically concerns the regime’s decision to ban all images of and references to former President Mohammad Khatami in contemporary news stories.
Government censorship authorities have even gone so far as to digitally remove images of Khatami from reissued archival footage from a time when he was a close affiliate of the Islamic Republic’s founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
Under Doaei, Ettelaat contradicted the order by printing images of the former president and publishing excerpts of an interview that he gave to a Lebanese newspaper. After being indicted, Doaei doubled down on his defiance by using the Wednesday issue of the paper to circulate a front-page open letter to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani urging the prosecution of Iranian officials who push such “subjective” orders as the ban on references to Khatami.
The Khatami presidency was notably similar to Rouhani’s current administration insofar as both have apparently engaged in unusual outreach to the West. Some have consequently credited each man with general reformist attitudes, although others have disputed this in both cases. Rouhani was embraced as a moderate by some Western leaders and progressive Iranian citizens when he was elected in 2013 on promises of a freer and more open Iranian society, but he has subsequently been criticized for failing to act in accordance with those promises.
Nevertheless, Doaei’s editorial suggests that some still believe the current president may be both willing and able to take a stand against the current hardline crackdown, which is reportedly being led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. On the other hand, some of the harshest criticism of Rouhani has come from among those who initially supported his campaign. This leaves little doubt that expectations of improvement under his tenure have greatly diminished over the past two years.
Still, the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran points out that on the occasion of Iran’s annual Students’ Day, which was celebrated on Monday, a number of young Iranians reached out to the president directly, speaking out to him and other officials about the ongoing plight of political prisoners, especially Green Movement leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi, and Zahra Rahnavard.
Some of these Students’ Day protestors also echoed Doaei’s criticisms of effectively arbitrary media restrictions. Khashayar Pourtaheri, Secretary of Sharif University’s Islamic Students Association, was quoted as saying to Rouhani, “Today, not only is the issue of house arrests still unresolved, but also [former President] Seyed Mohammad Khatami, one of your most important supporters, is banned from appearing in the media. Are these consistent with your campaign promises?”
While some such remarks are likely aimed at eliciting action on human rights and alleviation of censorship from the president’s office, it is just as likely that some are aimed only at venting frustration and calling general attention to a deteriorating situation.
As Iran News Update previously pointed out, these sorts of acts of protest and defiance have certainly not caused the regime to slow its crackdown, and may in fact have prompted some acceleration. But on the other hand, some of these stories have reached Western media, potentially increasing the prospects for international pressure on the regime.
Of course, foreign activists have already been giving attention to at least some aspects of Iran’s human rights behavior, including incidents arguably connected to the current crackdown. On Tuesday, Amnesty International decried Iran’s reaffirmation of its right to carry out death sentences on persons who were minors at the time of their offense. And on Wednesday, Boston University hosted the latest effort to call attention to Iran’s use of political imprisonment, especially in the case of Washington Post correspondent and American-Iranian dual citizen Jason Rezaian.
The college’s College of Communications this week awarded Rezaian the Hugo Shong Reporting on Asia Award, according to BU Today. It was received by the imprisoned journalist’s brother, who spoke on Rezaian’s more than 500 days in prison and the secrecy and vague charges involved in his case.
At the event, Thomas Fiedler, the dean of the College of Communications, acknowledged the activist intentions behind the gathering, saying, “We want to bring your attention to both a tragedy and a travesty. Our hope is that by presenting this award to Jason, in a small way we can bring attention to this and perhaps lead to a positive result.”