Leaders of Iran

Friday, December 17, 2004

IRNA Attacks Keyhan and managing Editor Hossein Shariatmadari


PARIS-TEHRAN 22TH July (IPS) As promised, the officials news agency of the Islamic Republic (IRNA) started Saturday the first “instalment” of a series aimed at “disclosing” the “media mafia” formed by the radical daily “Keyhan”, the mouthpiece of the hard liners and particularly the activities of its managing Editor Hossein Shariatmadari.

Considering the fact that the Managing Editor of IRNA is named by the Islamic Guidance Minister while Keyhan’s is appointed by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, many observers interpreted the now open “pen war” between the two medias “colossus” not only the continuation of the ongoing power struggle between the conservatives and the reformists but also between President Mohammad Khatami and the leader of the regime, the flag bearer of the fundamentalists.

IRNA explained its decision to answer Keyhan’s unabated attacks was taken after the paper, considered as the “mouthpiece of the Intelligence community” not only accused the news agency’s coverage of last year’s attack of students dormitories by security forces as “biased” but also denouncing it as “defending foreign interests”.

In response, Keyhan, known for its vitriolic articles against reformists and dissident intellectuals, said what aroused IRNA’s wrath was the paper’s “divulgation” of the names of some Iranian journalists and intellectuals who received money from the United States.

Following a recent statement by Mr. Khameneh'i against “Western-type” reforms and “American reformers”, Keyhan accused some reformist journalists and intellectuals, namely Dr. Abdolkarim Sorush, an Islamist philosopher and Hojjatoleslam Mohsen kadivar, a reformist theologian who just came out of prison for “receiving money” from the New-Yrok-based Human Rights Watch.

Both men denied the grant and Mr. Kadivar said he would sue Keyhan for defamation, but Mr. Shariatmadari, a former interrogator of dissidents and intelligence officer of the Revolutionary Guards continued his unfounded charges, warning that he would publish more names of people who got money from the United States.

“The coordinated attempts by the media section of the violence-seeking faction went to such an extent that some people stormed the agency and threatened to throw officials of the news agency out of window”, an unidentified spokesman for IRNA said in a statement.

As a result, menace and "organised threatening phone calls” against the news agency have been resumed once again by Kayhan, the statement went on, revealing that the staff of IRNA were subject to threats and pressures in the course of elections in the past, especially during presidential elections.

“The pictures available at the agency show that the monopolist Mafia and those advocating violence are only a handful of known agents who are being supported by certain power centres and are seeking domination over the information flow in the country with no fear of being confronted”, the spokesman pointed out

Under the title of “How the Media Mafia Was Formed in Keyhan”, IRNA starts by revealing the activities of the “team” that rule over Keyhan under the leadership of a certain “H. SH” (the initials of Mr. Hossein Shariatmadari) it describes as “a former prisons interrogator who learned the business of bulletin writing in a certain centre (Revolutionary Guards Intelligence Unit).

“A media mafia has been formed within the Persian-language afternoon daily “Kayhan” for quite a long time now and works to implement a policy of violence”, IRNA says, adding that “a person, with the initial "H-Sh" who worked with the daily's distribution cooperative for some time, was moved to a centre where he was able to start the work of spreading accusations and fabricating offences”.

According to IRNA, it was in the Qezel Hesar Prison “where he spent several years” that Mr Shariatmadari founded a team made of repentant members from the outlawed “Arman Mostaz’afin” (Ideals of the Deprived) he latter introduced to Keyhan and charged with collecting political and intelligence background information on reformers and dissidents.

"H-Sh", together with other persons with the initials "M-M" (Mohammad Mohajeri, Deputy Editor) "H-S" (Hossein Saffar-Harandi) and "R-A" (Reza Amini) launched a disinformation campaign that capitalised on takingbiased stances against certain publications as well as the country's cultural sector”, IRNA said. said.

The agency goes on revealing that Keyhan’s Managing Editor had also a hand in the preparation and broadcasting of notorious programs such as "Peyda va Penhan" (Visible and Hidden) and "Hoviyat" (Identity) where leading journalists, politicians, scholars and intellectuals would randomly and indiscriminatingly be accused as being on the “foreigners” payroll.

Observers noted that by pointing to the “close collaboration” of Mr. Shariatmadari with the “Voice and Visage” (Radio and Television) that is directly controlled by Mr. Khameneh’i, IRNA has also revealeds indirectly the activities of this organisation in defaming dissidents.

Mr. Ahmad Zeydabadi, a Tehran-based independent journalist noted that while IRNA, as a State-controlled media, had a limited framework in its activities and reporting, the Radio and Television, also State-owed, was not controlled by the Government, “broadcasting mostly news and views of one side of the ruling powers”.

“As revealed by one of the team's disgruntled members, investigations conducted by the group which could possibly have been influenced by suggestions from persons loyal to Sa’id Emami at the Information Ministry, in certain cases, revealed defamatory acts for which Kayhan was forced to apologise”, IRNA added.

An influential Deputy to former Intelligence Minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian, Mr. Emami, alias Sa’id Eslami, committed suicide last year in prison, after the Ministry acknowledged that a group of high ranking agents and officers led by Mr. Emami were directly involved in the savage assassination, late November 1998, of at least five prominent political and writers, including Mr. Dariush Foruhar and his wife Parvaneh Eskandari, leaders of the secularist Iranian People’s Party, writers Mohammad Mokhtari, Mohammad Ja’far Pouyandeh and political activist Piruz Davani.

Observers noted that most of IRNA’s “revelations” about the past activities of Mr. Shariatmadari were made before and with much more details by investigative journalists like Mr. Akbar Ganji or Mr. Emameddin Baqi, both of them in prison.

IRNA went even further and adopting the Law of Talion, it said “defamatory and biased” articles published by Keyhan not only projects a “violent” picture of the Islamic Republic for international opinion, but also serves as a “basis for (the Persian service) of Radio Israel and other opponents in attacking the Islamic Republic and distort the image of the regime”.

Promising that “other details (concerning Keyhan and its editorial team) would be revealed in the near future”, the Public Relation of IRNA also decided to conduct a public opnion poll about the activities of both media, making available some telephone numbers for the public to express their opinion.

However, an unwavering and arrogant Shariatmadari, in his first reaction to IRNA’s revelations, wrote that not only he was “proud” of his past and present activities but Keyhan would continue in “revealing enemies bases” in the Islamic Republic.

Asked by the Persian service of Radio France Internationale (RFI) if it was correct that “whoever aims at Mr. Shariatmadari digs his own grave?” Mr. Zeydabadi said far from being an independent media, Keyhan was an “integral part” of the current that is against the reform process in Iran, “a current that is backed and supported by very powerful centres that also control the Judiciary.

“In one word, anyone who dares to attack Keyhan buys the wrath of those centres and that of the Judiciary”, he told RFI monitored by Iran Press Service.

However, and as the “pen war” is raging between IRNA and Keyhan, Mr. Fereydun Verd-Nezhad, the news agency’s Managing Editor who is also responsible for the Persian-language daily “Iran” was summoned by Mr. Sa’id Mortazavi, the Press Court’s controversial and notorious Judge following a complaint by... Heyhan. IRNA KEYHAN 22700"


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