Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Crackdown on free speech in Iran; Presidential press advisor goes to prison for "spreading lies"

Sending your press advisor to prison because you don't like what they said or wrote says volumes on how hard-pressed the government is to keep the people, and their own petty squabbling, in check. Nothing says obedience like a bloody head on a pike at the entrance to the village, so to speak.

From AP/Yahoo November 21 by Ali Akbar Dareini

Iran: President's press adviser sentenced

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — The Iranian president's press adviser has been sentenced to a year in prison on charges of "publishing materials contrary to Islamic norms," the official IRNA news agency reported Sunday.

Ali Akbar Javanfekr has also been banned from journalism activities for three years, IRNA said.

Javanfekr is just the latest of dozens of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's political backers to be targeted by hard-line opponents. This appears to be part of an internal power struggleover influencing upcoming elections for parliament, slated for March, and for president in 2013.

Javanfekr wrote in an official publication that the practice of women wearing a head-to-toe black covering known as a chador was not originally an Iranian practice but was imported. This was considered offensive by hard-line Iranian clerics.

Imagine taking pride in wanting to be the originator of the burqa, or chador.

The court sentenced him to six months for publication of materials and pictures "contrary to Islamic norms" and another six months for writings against Islamic norms, IRNA said.

Javanfekr has 20 days to appeal the sentence. His lawyer, Abdollah Nakhaei, said the verdict is unfair and that he will definitely appeal it.

The verdict came hours after authorities banned the pro-reform Etemaad daily for two months for publishing the text of an interview Saturday with Javanfekr, in which he criticized conservative opponents of Ahmadinejad for the arrest of dozens of the president's allies over the past months.

Authorities made no mention of the interview. Instead, they said the paper was ordered closed on charges of insulting officials and "spreading lies."

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