The head of Iran’s judiciary cautioned the Iranian media about coverage of economic corruption cases, in particular warning against publishing the names of ministers affiliated with the administration of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and said that the prosecutor’s office had been given orders to press charges against any outlet that commits an illegal act during its coverage of the corruption cases.
“Some in the media and some officials have started to say that corruption is everywhere,” said Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani Oct. 12. “This is contrary to reality. That newspapers reinforce this is a mistake, and it leads to hopelessness among the people, and this issue is a national security issue.”
Using a pejorative to describe Reformist media, Larijani said, “The chain newspapers print the names of individuals from cases that are still with the prosecutors and write in their headlines that some ministers were caught up in this case.”
He said that information on open cases should not be published early and warned, “I gave the prosecutor’s office orders to monitor these media and to not give up on whatever is against the law and even to issue a summons if necessary.”
Larijani’s comments were aimed at the media coverage of statements made by judicial spokesman Gholam-Hossein Mohseni-Ejei on Oct. 6. While discussing the corruption case of billionaire Babak Zanjani, who had been tasked with helping Iran evade sanctions by discretely selling its oil, Mohseni-Ejei said, “In this case, the names of three ministers from the previous administration and the head of the central bank were presented and in regard to these four individuals, research was conducted.”
These comments made the front page of a number of Reformist newspapers, many of which had been under intense pressure during the Ahmadinejad administration, particularly from Culture Minister Mohammad Hosseini.
Conservative website Mashregh News took this opportunity to attack the Reformist press for its coverage of Mohseni-Ejei’s statements. It reported, “Based on the daily observations of the for-hire Reformist chain media, Mashregh became aware of a coordinated cooperation by these media.”
In its article, headlined, “Which media was Larijani warning?” Mashregh published screenshots of the front pages of six Reformist newspapers that ran the corruption case and the ministers implicated as their top stories. The article claimed that these outlets, all of which support the administration of President Hassan Rouhani, ignore other cases of corruption and give special coverage to these because they involve Ahmadinejad’s administration. Mashregh’s outrage, however, bypassed its own coverage. The news organization not only published the comments by Mohseni-Ejei on Oct. 6 but also featured them in a top headline.
In response to Larijani’s comments, well known editor and translator Khashayar Dayhimi wrote a very harsh letter to Larijani entitled “A lawless country.” He wrote that when the corruption case involving Ahmadinejad’s vice president becomes known to everyone, a case he called “one of thousands,” then the media can’t be accused of making the corruption seem bigger than it really is. In regard to Larijani’s comments about people becoming “hopeless” about the situation, he wrote, “The people have already made their judgments and they will do so again.”
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