Newspaper article International New York Times

Iran President Defies Blackout against Ex-Leader

Newspaper article International New York Times

Iran President Defies Blackout against Ex-Leader

Article excerpt

Under a ban by judiciary officials, no Iranian outlet of any sort is permitted to mention Mohammad Khatami's name or show his photograph.

Just a week after his forces made significant gains in national elections, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran has started a campaign to rescind a news media blackout against a former president, Mohammad Khatami.

Mr. Rouhani's calculated remarks broke a longstanding taboo and set the stage for a showdown between the president and a hard-line dominated judiciary. The blackout had been in effect for some time before it was publicly acknowledged in February 2015. Since then, press officers for the judiciary have said that other institutions had ordered it, but it is the judiciary that has punished newspapers and websites that defied the ban.

Mr. Rouhani's comments on Mr. Khatami were for the most part ignored by the Iranian news media. The lone exception was the Islamic Republic News Agency, a state-run outlet voicing the opinions of the Iranian government, which highlighted Mr. Rouhani's remarks on its web page.

Mr. Khatami, a reformist, led the country from 1997 to 2005, winning office twice by overwhelming margins. Under the ban issued by judiciary officials, no Iranian news outlet of any sort is permitted to mention his name or show his photograph.

Mr. Rouhani, speaking during a live broadcast on Monday from the city of Yazd, made a point of explicitly mentioning Mr. Khatami's name. Mr. Rouhani recalled how he had entered Parliament at the same time "as my dear brother Seyyed Mohammad Khatami," who comes from the region of Yazd. As the audience cheered, state television quickly muted the sound.

Mr. Rouhani continued defending Mr. Khatami, saying, "Heroic Iran will never forget its servants; those who have made efforts for the greatness of Iran, no one can downgrade their names and greatness, those who today are the honors of the land of Iran."

During a news conference on Sunday, Mr. Rouhani also spoke out against the news media ban of Mr. Khatami, calling it "illegal" and a "jest."

The blackout is part of an effort by hard-liners to limit the influence of Mr. …

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