Human Rights

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Iranian Paper Shut After Criticizing Revolutionary Guards as Crackdown on Freedoms Continues

An independent Iranian newspaper said it was shut down by authorities after criticizing the country’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

The publication, Ghanoon, had run afoul of the IRGC for publishing an article critical of the force’s seizure of 10 U.S. Navy personnel in January, the Associated Press reported. The article compared a video showing the detained American sailors kneeling with their hands on their heads, which was broadcast on official Iranian state television, to beheading videos taken by the Islamic State. At the time, IRGC commander Ali Jafari called the report “a big mistake” and threatened that the paper “must repent for what it had said.”

Ghanoon also published an article criticizing conditions at a Tehran prison on June 11, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported. That article was dismissed as a “lie” by the city’s prosecutor, Abbas Jafari Dolatabadi, who warned that the paper’s editor-in-chief would be prosecuted.

Ghanoon said it was closed by the Iranian judiciary following complaints from the IRGC’s Department of Intelligence. A notice that appeared on the publication’s website on June 20 stated that it had been accused of “libel and publishing falsehoods to create public anxiety.”

Ghanoon’s closure comes as Iran continues to restrict freedoms in the wake of last year’s nuclear deal.

In recent weeks, Iran has arrested a number of dual citizens visiting relatives in the country, including Canadian-Iranian academic Homa Hoodfar and Thomson-Reuters Foundation employee Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at the airport, separated from her toddler, and charged with seeking to overthrow the government.

The New York Times reported in November that Iranians who hoped that the nuclear deal would lead to a rapprochement with the West had been “jolted with a series of increasingly rude awakenings,” including increased anti-American activity and a further erosion of rights. The report was prompted by the arrests of several prominent Iranian journalists and businessmen with ties to the United States.

Last October, two Iranian poets were sentenced to jail and 99 lashes each for shaking hands with members of the opposite sex. Reports surfaced the following month that Iranian actress Sadaf Taherian was forced to flee the country after she posted pictures of herself with her hair uncovered on social media. Iran began a wider crackdown on models appearing on social media without approved head coverings last month.

National elections in February resulted in hardliners consolidating their control over Iran’s parliament and the influential Assembly of Experts.

Saudi journalist Abdulrahman al-Rashed predicted last year that the nuclear deal would embolden Iran’s hardliners because they would “feel more confident, aware that foreign threats will have been neutralized and that no one will be able to confront them.”

[Photo: Ghanoon Online Screenshot ]