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Iran academic comments on closure of Sharq newspaper

BBC Monitoring

Text of commentary by Sadeq Zibakalam headlined "Who closed down Sharq newspaper" published by Iranian newspaper E'temad website on 15 August

On the face of it, it seems like a meaningless question, as it is clear who closed down Sharq daily - the Press Supervision Committee - but this is not the entire truth.

It is true that the government or officials have shut down Sharq newspaper but the pretext for closing it was also provided. The reality is that since it started publishing again after nearly three months, the "Sharqis" [those running the paper] knew too well that they were walking on the edge of a cliff and that the slightest negligence on their part would give the officials an excuse to shut down the newspaper.

The feeling that Sharq was on the edge, was further intensified after "Ham-Mihan" was closed. The situation in which the managers, writers and specially the editorial board of Sharq was placed seemed really "sad".

Sharq 's editorial board was particularly very sensitive to political issues specially issues related to the president. They were very careful and anxious of no! t making a mistake. They were so careful and cautious that sometimes one would feel that those who were working in Sharq were not journalists but specialists in neutralising mines and bombs as they were so frightened not to lose sight of something that could be used as a pretext [for their closure] by the officials.

During this period, sometimes Ms Mofidi used to contact me from the editorial board and ask me to write editorials. Other colleagues in Sharq also used to ask me to contribute to other pages of this paper.

What many do not know is that there were also other stories and articles in response to what I had written in Sharq, which were not published due to the same hesitations, apprehensions and concerns.

What many of Sharq readers do not know is that in some cases even after finishing the typesetting of my writings, they were omitted at the last minute due to "caution".

Due to the heavy atmosphere in Sharq, the editorial board and writers of! this paper used to review the headlines, editorials, news reports and analyses over and over where there was a pause on every single sentence and expression making sure that none of them would cause trouble.

In spite of all the watchfulness, in spite of all the self-censorships, in spite of all the omissions, a pretext was found. However, the blow did not come from the political stories and issues - of which the Sharq was very wary and concerned - but the pretext was found in an interview conducted with Saqi Ghahraman.

While deeply feeling ashamed towards my other "intellectual" and "nonconformist" compatriots, I must admit that I did not have the honour and pleasure of knowing this lady prior to the publication of this interview on Monday 15 Mordad [6 August].

Not only did I not know that such a person exist, nor I knew what her private interests may be. It would be a lie if I said that Sharq should not have conducted an interview with this lady as a retarded and dark-sighted person like me who does not know anything about ! the modern era and modernity and the fact that I do not know this lady and that I have been so ignorant that I do not know what Ms Saqi Ghahraman has been up to in Canada who is said to be a writer, a poet, an artist and many other things. No, never. My agony is something else.

We have so many political, social, economic and cultural problems and issues; from student arrests to pressure on the press, the daily deterioration of the economic situation, the heavy shadow of the third resolution, petrol, addiction, divorce, poverty, unemployment, surging prices to many other problems and difficulties. In such circumstances where we have so many problems and difficulties to discuss in " Sharq ", where does the necessity or priority for a friendly chat with Ms Saqi Ghahraman come from?

It is sometimes that I feel pity for myself in many aspects. I feel pity for the articles that Ms Mofidi usually asked me to write for the front page at the last minute. I feel pity beca! use I used to leave everything else aside so that I could send the art icle in less than an hour or two. In cases where there was no time, I used to go to newspaper's office and write my piece there, which then was not published due to the same points that I mentioned earlier. I feel pity because I never complained to Ms Mofidi or Mr Rahmanian as I used to tell myself that I should understand their situation.

I feel pity that I used to struggle so much with myself, play with words and expressions [to make sure they would be appropriate], re-read and re-edit my own writings so that no one would be offended. I feel pity that a number of people were under so much pressure during these few months and suddenly the newspaper is closed down over an interview with Ms Saqi Ghahraman, whom I still do not know.

I feel frustrated that there were so many issues and subjects in relation to the problems and difficulties of my country but that I had to struggle with myself so much, saying it was not right of me to write about those issues as it cou! ld jeopardise Sharq 's position.

I feel pity for all those anxieties, cautions, sympathies, cares, worries and obsessions as they have all ended in the closure [of the paper].

There would be no sense of pity if the newspaper was closed down for publishing a story on petrol, the nuclear issue, the arrested students of polytechnic, the disqualifications, poverty, surging prices and etc. One could understand if the paper was closed down because of a piece of writing about the problems and the real issues of the society; this would have been of less agony in comparison to a situation where the paper is closed down because of an interview with Ms Saqi Ghahraman.

One feels pity and cannot help but ask those who were in charge of conducting and publishing this interview, that how much are our apprehensions, thoughts, ideas and the words of Ms Saqi Ghahraman reflecting the realities of our society?

In the same week that Sharq published Saqi Ghahraman's inter! view, six of the main candidates for the Democratic Party [in the US] were debating the issue of homosexuality in a live TV programme; some of whom confirmed it and some opposed it.

How is this issue significant to our society?, to know whether the issue of homosexuality is a result of a biological process or the result of people's awareness in choice and determination?

If this issue is turned into one of the hottest election campaign issues in America, is because nearly a third of the voters are homosexuals.

However, I still feel pity for my writings, which ended up in Mr Rahmanian's [managing editor of Sharq] dustbin.

I still feel pity in a sad way for the apprehensions, obsessions, anxieties, omissions and again more omissions by Mr Rahmanian, Ms Badrossadat Mofidi, Mohammad Reza Abak, Abdolreza Tajik, Sajjad Salek, Samina Rastegari and other friends in Sharq who were under so much pressure and anxiety every time the paper was going for print, fearing that there may be a problem.

Source: E'tem! ad, Tehran, in Persian, on 15 August, p 6



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