National Security Council restricts coverage of top cleric’s resignation

New York, July 11, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) is alarmed that Iran’s Supreme National Security Council has censored media coverage of the resignation of prominent cleric Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri.

According to a CPJ source in Tehran, the council, which is headed by the president and includes several top government officials, sent the written directive to newspapers late last night, Wednesday, July 10. The order instructed publishers not to take a position “for or against” Taheri.

Taheri, a prominent cleric and associate of Ayatollah Khomeini, the leader of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, resigned Tuesday as the leader of the Friday prayers in the city of Isfahan, about 400km (250 miles) south of Tehran. In his resignation letter, published in some reformist newspapers on Wednesday, Taheri accused the government of corruption and said that the promises of the revolution had not been realized.

Norooz, one of Iran’s leading reformist newspapers, had published Taheri’s resignation letter and today printed the council’s directive. Editors left much of the rest of the paper blank where stories covering Taheri’s resignation had been set to run.

“We denounce this act of censorship by Iranian authorities,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “This is obviously a story of public interest, and the press should be allowed to cover it without official interference.”