RSF denounces reformist daily’s closure by Iran
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Iranian authorities to rescind their decision to shut down the reformist daily Sazandegi for publishing an allegedly mendacious story about the Islamic Republic’s soaring inflation.
Update: Sazandegi's suspension was overturned on March 1, 2023 by the culture prosecutor. According to its investigation report "no factual contradiction was observed". The report cited that the newspaper "had only adopted an analytical approach. The mentioned article was written on the basis of the market situation. Considering the high price of meat, the investigator did not see any illegal content that could be criminalized."
Sazandegi, which is often critical of the authorities, was closed on 20 February when it ran a front-page story headlined “Meat riots” about the government’s mishandling of escalating meat prices. The story had a big impact in Iran.
The Press Supervision Council, an offshoot of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, said the newspaper was being shut down for its “insistence on publishing false content” and for “disturbing public opinion” – accusations that are routinely used to gag political dissent in Iran. The decision was taken under articles 5 and 6 of the national press law, which bans the media from publishing content deemed to be false or based on rumour.
“The Press Supervision Council has once again demonstrated that it is just a tool for controlling and persecuting journalists,” said Jonathan Dagher, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “It is time for the Iranian authorities to accept that censoring news and information is not going to end the crisis in Iran. Sazandegi must be allowed to resume operating and informing the Iranian public without delay.
Sazandegi editor Akbar Montajebi said he thought the newspaper’s closure was prompted above all by an earlier story mocking a government-organised conference presenting “influential women” from all over the world. The conference was widely seen as blatantly hypocritical, coming after the violent crackdown of women’s protests about Mahsa Amini’s death in police custody on 16 September. After this story appeared, Sazandegi was subjected to “a great deal of pressure, to the point that the possibility of the newspaper’s closure was mentioned,” Montajebi said.
Government Information Council secretary Ehsan Salehi denied Montajebi’s claim but then reinforced the Supervision Council’s intimidation by adding: “If other content in the newspaper has been of the same [false] nature, then the Supervision Council’s observation [...] is legitimate.”