Iran shackles reform newspaper as political struggle mounts

The Nawruz, a widely-read reformist newspaper, has been suspended for six months on a court verdict which bans Mokhsen Mirdamadi, its executive manager, out of the publishing world for four years on charges of "deliberate public misinformation and abuse, and propaganda against ruling bodies and official periodicals".

The controversy flared up after the Nawruz carried a resignation statement by Ayatollah Jalaleddin Taheri. The imam of the cathedral mosque of Isfahan in the country's heart harshly came down on the regime, which proceeds from a constitutional principle of Wilayat e Faqih ("Rule of the Theologian"). It grants supreme power to the Shi'ite clergy to place the country's religious leader above the president.

To add fuel to the fire, the Nawruz soon bravely carried a contribution in which Abbas Abadi, one of the foremost Iranian reformist ideologists, appealed to President Muhammad Khatami either to step down or launch a referendum on reforms. Decision-making is paralysed throughout the country, said Mr. Abadi.

Another two newspapers, the Bonyan and the Iran, were suppressed early in May. As Iranian political analysts see it, reprisals against the reform-minded press are coming as practical manifestation of a bitter tug of war between hardliners, led by Ali Khamenei, the Wali Faqih (religious leader), and reformists consolidated round President Khatami.