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Closure of news website puts pressure on critics of Iranian government

BBC Monitoring

By Saeed Barzin of BBC Monitoring on 24 September

The Iranian government has shut down an internet news outlet known for its harsh criticism of President Mahmud Ahmadinezhad, and critics say the move will put pressure on the country's loyal opposition in the next parliamentary Majlis elections.

"After seven months of intense government pressure on the judicial authorities, our offices were sealed off on Wednesday," Baztab.com said in a final report on Sunday 23 September.

Baztab is known as a pragmatic conservative outlet in the Iranian scheme of politics.

The website is close to Mohsen Reza'i, the former commander-in-chief of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and the current secretary for the highest arbitration body, the Expediency Council.

For the past seven months, the site has been filtered on government orders - but without a judicial warrant and has been inaccessible inside the country.

Currently, the government is trying to pass a law in the Majlis to "re! gulate" all internet news platforms and news outlets.

Critics say the moves intend to contain the media for the coming Majlis elections in March 2008.


Despite its conservative credentials, Baztab has been highly critical of government policy, especially regarding the economy and foreign affairs, and carried biting commentaries on Ahmadinezhad.

In one of its latest reports, in a sarcastic mood, Baztab said Ahmadinezhad's supporters know him as the Iranian Socrates.

The Presidential Centre for Research and Documentation has published a pamphlet entitled "The Role of President's Socratic Dialectic in the Victory of Iran's National Nuclear Campaign", Baztab reported.

"Heedless of the sophists, the president is using Socratic dialectic in dialogue with Iranians and aliens," Baztab quoted the report as saying.

In recent weeks, and to the anger of some segments of the political establishment, Baztab reported on the meetings of the country's clerical conclave, the Assembly of Experts.

Subsequently, the hard-line newspaper Keyhan warned that certain ne! wspapers and domestic websites, such as Baztab, "follow the aliens... and should be aware of the consequences". (7 Sep)

Source: BBC Monitoring research 24 Sep 07



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