Iran’s Press Supervisory Board has shut down a newspaper apparently over a graphic that depicted the hand of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in connection with a story about rising poverty in the country.
Alaedin Zohourian, the head of the press supervisory board, told the official government news agency IRNA on November 8 that board members had decided to cancel the license of the daily Kelid (Key).
Zohourian did not say whether the decision was final or just temporary. He also didn’t provide any reason for the move.
The Young Journalists' Club, a news site affiliated with Iran’s state broadcaster, said on November 7 that Kelid was being investigated over its front page a day earlier that included a graphic depicting Khamenei’s hand drawing the poverty line.
“Millions of households below the poverty line,” the newspaper said.
Criticism of Khamenei, the most powerful political authority in the Islamic republic, is considered a red line.
“Whenever the Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran or the true Sources of Emulation are insulted in a publication, its license will be revoked and its responsible manager and the author of that article will be brought before the appropriate court and punished,” Article 27 of Iran’s Press Law says.
In 2012, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned the board for engaging in censorship activities.
Iran is ranked 174th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders 2021 World Press Freedom Index.