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Iranian Reformist Daily Banned One Day After Relaunch

Supporters wave a poster of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Musavi. 'Yas No' had thrown its weight behind the candidate.
Supporters wave a poster of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Musavi. 'Yas No' had thrown its weight behind the candidate.
If there was a contest for the shortest publication time for a newspaper, then “Yas No” would be the winner.

The publication hit the newsstands on May 16 for the first time in six years, relaunched by reformists hoping to use the paper to get their message out ahead of the June 12 presidential vote.

Yet just a few hours later, the newspaper was ordered to halt publication by Tehran prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi.

"Yas No” was banned nearly six years ago after it published a letter from reformist members of parliament questioning the role of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in the mass disqualification of candidates running in the 2004 parliamentary election.

A few months ago, a judge gave approval for the paper to resume publishing. But Mortazavi filed an appeal and requested that the publication be stopped.

Mortazavi is known as “the butcher of the press” for ordering the closure of dozens of pro-reform and liberal publications, including “Yas No,” in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Because of the judiciary crackdown on the reformist press, “Yas No” editors and reporters had been expecting their paper to be shut down again. But no one thought it would happen so quickly.

One of the paper’s political writers, Mohammad Reza Yazdanpanah, told Radio Farda on May 16 that the staff remains optimistic. “If we weren’t optimistic we wouldn’t have launched the paper,” Yazdanpanah said. “Despite this optimism, we predict that ‘Yas No’ will one day be shut down forever; we are expecting it to happen, but we will do all we can to prevent it from happening,” he said.

“Yas No” editor in chief Mohammad Naimipur is a senior member of the reformist Mosharekat Party that is close to Iran’s reformist former President Mohammad Khatami.

The newspaper’s staff intended the relaunch to support reformist presidential candidate Mir Hossein Musavi in the upcoming election. The May 16 issue included a front page article stating “Khatami-Musavi for Iran.”

Khatami, who withdrew his candidacy last month, has thrown his weight behind Musavi, a former prime minister, who is expected to be President Mahmud Ahmadinejad’s main challenger in the June 12 vote.

The head of Iran’s Journalists Association, Badrosadat Mofidi, says the frequent closure of media outlets in Iran is seen as normal by Iran’s leaders.

Mofidi added that the closure of “Yas No,” which she described as illegal, could be related to the upcoming election. “This might arise from [officials’] fear of changes in the power structure as a result of the future election,” she said.

Yazdanpanah had said that the reformist camp of the Iranian establishment was hoping to use “Yas No” to make itself heard in the upcoming election.

“’Yas No’ belongs to a current that has been deprived by government officials of having any kind of publication, and the lack of a publication was very much felt,” Yazdanpanah said. “Therefore, those in charge of the newspaper who are senior Mosharekat [reformist party] members did all they could to publish the newspaper and enter the market before the election campaign period.”

There are reports that Musavi is launching his own newspaper, “Kalameh Sabz,” (Green Word), in the coming days.

Meanwhile on May 17, Culture Minister Hossein Safar Harandi urged the media to promote enthusiasm for the June 12 election. However, he warned the media "to be careful not to break the cultural and ethical guidelines of society when they are reporting on the election."

Radio Farda Broadcaster Ruzbeh Bolhari contributed to this report
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    Golnaz Esfandiari

    Golnaz Esfandiari is managing editor of RFE/RL's Radio Farda, which breaks through government censorship to deliver accurate news and provide a platform for informed discussion and debate to audiences in Iran. She has reported from Afghanistan and Haiti and is one of the authors of The Farda Briefing newsletter. Her work has been cited by The New Yorker, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and other major publications. Born and raised in Tehran, she is fluent in Persian, French, English, and Czech.