Reporters Without Borders condemns yesterday’s decision by the Press Authorisation and Surveillance Commission – the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance’s censorship offshoot – to suspend Kayhan e Caricature, a cartoon bimonthly published by the hardline conservative media group Kayhan.
The suspension was prompted by a cartoon in the August-September issue that was deemed to have insulted the Prophet Joseph (Yusuf). In another decision yesterday, the commission also stripped Vafa, a news agency and website linked to the veterans of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war, of its licence.
"Caricature is being restricted by the fierce infighting between Iran’s rival government factions," Reporters Without Borders said. "Kayhan e Caricature joins the long list of publications that have fallen victim to the regime’s repressive policies. The Kayhan media group and, in particular, its national daily Kayhan are extremely conservative. Kayhan’s editor, Hossin Shariatmadry, was appointed by Ayatollah Khamenei in person at the start of the past decade
"Kayhan has distinguished itself by repeatedly accusing journalists, intellectuals and dissidents of being in the pay of foreign interests. Nonetheless, since everyone has the right to freedom of information, we regard this decision, like last month’s suspension of the newspaper Shargh, as unfair and reprehensible."
The culture ministry offshoot’s decision to suspend two publications that support regime hardliners came exactly a week after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said at a news conference on 1 October that "the [culture] ministry’s decision to suspend the daily Shargh was incorrect."
The offending Kayhan e Caricature cartoon showed a man posing liked a male model on a catwalk surrounded by admiring women and alluded to a Coranic story about the Prophet Joseph and Zulaikha. Pro-government media launched a campaign about it a month after it appeared, although Kayhan’s editor apologized and stopped the bimonthly’s publication.
The commission’s withdrawal of Vafa’s licence yesterday was the result of an administrative court ruling. "We received no summons and, to my knowledge, no one had filed a complaint against us," Vafa editor Naseraldien Islamifard said. "The agency was suspended without our being able to defend ourselves."
Vafa, which describes itself as the news agency of "women and families," recently carried articles criticizing a senior member of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance.