PHOTO: One of the offensive pictures — former President Mohammad Khatami is greeted by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization
Two news websites in Iran have been blocked after they published reports about former reformist President Mohammad Khatami, accompanied by pictures of him.
Bahar News and Jamaran were banned for breaking a judiciary injunction against publication of any information of Khatami and “heads of sedition”, the regime’s reference to protests after the disputed 2009 Presidential election.
The funeral of Khatami’s sister this week was attended by many reformist political and religious figures, as well as the former President.
Iran Prosecutor General Gholam Hossein Ejei said two weeks ago that any outlet publishing Khatami’s photograph or words would be banned. He declared that this was part of the laws against “leaders of sedition”, set out by the Supreme National Security Council and the judiciary.
Ten MPs of the hardline Endurance Front backed up the warning as the two publications were suspended.
The prohibition on news of Khatami may be a sign of concern that reformists and/or the camp of former President Rafsanjani will do well in next month’s ballot for the chair of the Assembly of Experts and for next year’s Parliamentary elections.
Despite the ban, President Rouhani — sending his condolences over the death of Khatami’s sister — posted his photo with the former President on Instagram.
The conservative Mehr News also photographed Khatami at the funeral with senior Iranian figures, including Secretary of the National Security Council Ali Shamkhani and atomic energy head Ali Akbar Salehi, although the site apparently has not posted the images.
The Supreme Leader’s condolences were belatedly published and without any reference to Khatami’s name.
At the funeral, the crowd chanted for Khatami and for the opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi, held under strict house arrest since February 2011. Slogans included, “Ya Hussain Mir Hussain” and “Peace be Upon Khatami, Peace be Upon Mousavi/Karroubi”.
Later this week, the tension was reinforced when Sadegh Tabataei, a close associate of the late Ayatollah Khomeini. In his will he had asked for Khatami to perform the prayer at his funeral.
On Saturday, prominent MP Ali Motahari claimed Iran Prosecutor General Ejei is lying and that Khatami’s ban has not been ordered by the Supreme National Security Council. He said, “We are on the path of creating a closed atmosphere worst than the one during Shah’s regime.”