Newspapers have long been a flash point between moderate and hard-line politicians. Back in the 1990’s under President Khatami, newspapers started questioning the judiciary. The response was ferocious. Newspapers were closed down and journalists were arrested. As the judiciary reports directly to the Supreme Leader, President Khatami was unable to act.
It’s the same today. Recently, four journalists were reportedly sentenced by the hard-line judiciary to between five and ten years in prison. They were given 21 days to appeal.
The reason for their arrest is not complicated. The judiciary wanted to see more hard-liners elected to the parliament, so the newspapers supporting moderates were targeted and four journalists were arrested just before the elections in February.
With these harsh sentences the judiciary is reminding the country of the power they have to control Iran’s political story, irrespective of the ballot box. And so these four journalists, and at least nineteen others, suffer in prison. Newspapers are truly a battle-ground, and it’s the journalists who suffer.
President Rouhani has criticised the arrests and called for more media freedom; but he does not hold sway over the judiciary. With Iran’s over-broad security laws the judiciary can arrest anyone whenever they want.
It’s an oppressive environment.
But prayer is able to change even the workings of Iran’s judiciary.