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Author Topic:   Reformers and Hardliners Unite to Expel Undesirable Reporters
posted January 03, 2001 09:41     Click Here to See the Profile for Vatandoost   Click Here to Email Vatandoost     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
SMCCDI News Service
January 1, 2001

The Iranian authorities have opened a hidden campaign against the small Western press corps that is beginning to mirror the highly successful operation that has already muzzled the once flourishing independent domestic media, according to "Marzeporgohar" (MPG) sources who have contacted SMCCDI.

Until recently, attacks against individual foreign reporters and media organizations have been limited to the conservative print media and the state broadcast monopoly, IRIB. But now there are signs that government
officials are joining the effort to suppress what many - both conservatives and reformers -see as unfavorable coverage.

The most visible target in recent weeks has been Geneive Abdo, Tehran correspondent for The Guardian and a regular contributor to the
International Herald Tribune and a number of academic and specialty journals. Ms Abdo, an expert on political Islam, has apparently angered the authorities with her extensive contact with Iran's independent and
unpredictable Shi'ite theologians.

However, the long-established AFP bureau has been the subject of an official complaint, apparently by the intelligence ministry, while Reuters has seen its top Iranian correspondent barred from work by the secret
police without explanation. The BBC'ss Jim Muir is also a frequent target.

'Expel Geneive Abdo' demanded a recent frontpage commentary in the conservative Qods daily, picking up on an earlier salvo from the hardline Kayhan newspaper. Qods said Ms Abdo led a double life - that of journalist
and spy.

Ms Abdo angered her critics with reports on a new, radical turn within Iran's traditionally influential student movement, away from so-called 'active calm' to outright civil disobedience. The afternoon Kayhan, which
had reported similar developments itself, denounced Ms Abdo as a British provocateur.There seems to be little recognition in Tehran that Ms Abdo is an U.S.-citizen.

The Guardian correspondent is not alone.

Reuters, whose bureau chief Jonathan Lyons is Ms Abdo's husband and a fellow American, has faced a barrage of hardline criticism for allegedly seeking to split Iran's ruling establishment along factional lines.

A recent reference to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as spearheading the reenergized conservatives particularly angered the hardliners, who are adament the Leader does not take sides in Iran's
factional in-fighting.

Reformers around President Mohammad Khatami are also said to be unhappy with foreign press coverage, which is not longer as glowing as it once was Reports reaching the West from MPG sources in Iran say that authorities have made oblique threats against renewed visas for the BBC's Muir, as
well as for American husband-and-wife team, Lyons and Abdo.

After long absences, all three organizations returned to Tehran under the indirect patronage of moderate President Khatami and his allies in the Ministry of Culture and the Foreign Ministry: Reuters and the Guardian in
the summer of 1998 and the BBC in November 1999.

With the recent decline in the political fortunes of the reform movement set in motion by the February parliamentary polls, the conservatives have been able to pressure Western journalists without fear of retribution from their domestic rivals.

The result for Western readers is a sharp fall-off in the breadth and depth of coverage coming out of the Islamic Republic, apparently driven by fear of expulsion or other retaliation.

This treatment of the foreign press corps, at the hands of reformers and conservatives alike, raises serious questions about the former's commitment to pluralism and the latter's commitment to a gradual opening
to the West.

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