Iran hardliners again attack reformist media
TEHRAN, May 30 (Reuters) - Several Iranian publishers close to Iran's
moderate President Mohammad Khatami have been detained but most, including
the head of Iran's official IRNA news agency, have been released on bail,
newspapers said on Sunday.
They said Fereydoun Verdinejad, director of IRNA and publisher of several
leading newspapers, was freed on bail on Saturday after six hours in detention
on charges filed by conservative MPs, state broadcasters and elements of
the police and armed forces.
The publisher of the reformist daily Arya, Mohammad-Reza Zohdi, also
went to jail on Saturday on charges of ``publishing slanderous material,
disturbing public opinion and exposing military secrets,'' pro-Khatami
Zohdi could not meet bail set at 210 million rials ($70,000) and remains
in prison, they said. The 43-year-old IRNA director was freed after posting
180 million rials bail, they added.
Publishers of the moderate dailies Sobh-e Emrouz and Neshat, Saeed Hajarian
and Latif Safari, were also summoned to court on unspecified charges. Both
managed to post bail.
The reformist press, widely regarded as the vanguard of Khatami's vision
of civil society and political development, has provoked the ire of the
conservative ruling establishment who accuse it of undermining Islamic
and revolutionary values.
The latest attacks against the media are also part of an overall offensive
by conservative elements in parliament to revise press laws and restrict
press activities ahead of crucial elections to the national assembly next
Details of Verdinejad's charges have not been made public but journalists
told Reuters the case stemmed from complaints over a cartoon in the Persian-language
Iran newspaper which ridiculed the conservative-controlled state television.
Verdinejad, a former senior intelligence officer now close to the reformist
president, was acquitted by a press court last year of charges of ridiculing
a hardline MP in a cartoon and weakening police authority by printing critical
In April this year, the moderate daily Zan, or Woman, run by Faezeh
Hashemi, daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, was ordered
closed by the revolutionary court. Zan was charged with anti-revolutionary
propaganda after printing New Year's greetings from the fallen empress
Iran has enjoyed increased freedom since Khatami's 1997 surprise electoral
victory, as he has advocated greater pluralism and defended freedom of
thought and expression.
($1-3,000 rials at the official rate)