The Ham Mihan newspaper with a cover picture of Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant is seen in Tehran, Iran April 14, 2024.

Iran Cracks Down On Press, Journalists Critical Of Attack On Israel

Wednesday, 04/17/2024

Iran seems to have started a new round of crackdown on journalists and media outlets critical of the government following the strike on Israel during the weekend.

IRGC-linked Tasnim News Agency published a statement on Twitter (X) earlier this week that said the Guards were about to start "to deal with Israel's supporters on social media." The statement called on citizens to turn in those who support Israel on social media.

It was obvious that knowing the repressive nature of the Islamic Republic, no one would "support Israel" particularly after Iran launched a massive missile and drone attack on the country. For those in the know, it meant that the regime was not going to tolerate any narrative about the strikes which would be different in any way from the official state rhetoric.

Journalists living in Iran approached the news about the attack on Israel very cautiously or avoided it all together. However, two of the outspoken media activists, reformist commentator Abbas Abdi and moderate conservative journalist and documentary filmmaker Hossein Dehbashi behaved differently.

Abdi wrote in an article in Etemad that "a military reaction to Israel's strike on the Islamic Republic's Consulate in Damascus on April 1 was not necessary," noting beforehand that he was aware that "writing about certain issues might lead to "unforeseen situations." He also noted that "Perhaps it was not right to write about an ongoing war."

Abdi also noted that "It is not right for the Islamic Republic to attack a country it does not officially recognize," and says it does not exist. He pointed out that Iran was not able to file a complaint against Israel at a recent UN Security Council meeting simply because it does not recognize Israel."

Dehbashi's comments about Iran's attack on Israel were more straightforward and down to the point. He wrote in a tweet on the morning after the attack: "Let us be fair. It is the responsibility of any government in Iran to protect Iranian places and citizens and deter attacks against them." He also noted that the change in Iran's approach from watching and tolerating Israel's attacks, to immediate retaliation is a legitimate and important development."

However, Dehbashi added that "Last night's attack was an insufficient and unsuccessful show," adding that the attack is likely to "raise concerns about the country's real defensive capabilities."

This was a fact, as many Iranians on social media and through phone-ins to media outlets such as Iran International TV asked why Israel killed seven Iranian officers with one missile and Iran was unable to hurt any Israeli military personnel using more than 300 missiles and drones?"

On April 15, when the Iranian Judiciary's news agency Mizan reported that Dehbashi was summoned to the Prosecutor's office to respond to the charges of "disrupting the society's psychological security," Dehbashi sarcastically and defiantly replied under the post with a Persian expression that could be loosely translated as "OK. Big job!"

Abdi wrote in a new tweet on April 15: "These indictments will nullify and devaluate articles others write in defense of the attack on Israel. Independent writers are likely to avoid writing about the issue. This is how the society's psychological security will be undermined.

Alongside Abdi and Dehbashi, the Prosecutor's Office also indicted the dailies Etemad (for publishing Abdi's article) and Jahan-e Sanat for publishing a report about the rising exchange rates as a result of escalating tensions.

The crackdown on the press, is part of a bigger crackdown that targets women who defy compulsory hijab rules and restrict civil liberties in general.

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