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Verbal Dispute between Iranian Government, Judiciary on Freedom of Press | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Government spokesman Mohammad Bagher Nobakht. Getty Images

London-The annual press exhibition, which was inaugurated in Tehran on November 4 raised a new dispute between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Judiciary Chief Sadegh Larijani on restricting media and prosecuting journalists.

In response to President Hassan Rouhani’s speech at the opening ceremony of the 22nd Press and News Agencies Exhibition on Nov. 4, Larijani accused him of harboring double standards on freedom of the press.

“On several occasions you complained about why we didn’t have a judicial approach to this newspaper or that website,” Larijani stated without directly naming Rouhani.

“But when you speak among journalists, you hail freedom of the press.”

In this tone, Rouhani’s comments on freedom of the press, according to Larijani, are tantamount to “defamation of the judiciary” and an “insult.”

For his part, government spokesman Mohammad-Bagher Nobakht tried to respond calmly to Larijani’s comments by stressing that “the government believes in freedom of speech and freedom of criticism,” which have been underlined in the Iranian Constitution.

He added, “However, the government voices its objection to those who receive protection and act against the law, accuse the administration and revile it.”

Despite the fact that the dispute was regarding the treatment of journalists, yet it revealed once again the disagreement of political stances among Iranian officials especially that this disagreement has become a source of major concern for citizens and a reason to lose trust in the ruling regime.

Since taking office in August 2013, Rouhani has openly criticized the shutting down of newspapers and the pressure that has been applied on the media.

Speaking at the Press Exhibition on Nov. 4, he said, “How can journalists provide security to society if they are worried about their own security?”

Rouhani also suggested that violations of the press law be investigated by professional journalists, and not in court.
He added, “We should not break pens and shut mouths with flimsy excuses.”