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Sunday, June 09, 2013

What can be discussed in Iran's election campaign

I've seen a lot of claims lately about how the candidates in Iran's election can discuss anything they want. Just like in 2009....

So here's a little perspective. First, there's this, which ought to put a damper on the discussions.

Then, there's Reporters without Borders' instructions for reporters traveling to Iran to cover the elections.
As news agencies in Iran cannot tackle sensitive subjects and are obliged to employ a number of so-called “journalists” who are in fact intelligence officers, foreign media coverage of the persecution of Iranian journalists and civil society is a matter of great importance.
We hope that the foreign journalists who manage to get into Iran will use the opportunity offered by the elections to inform the rest of the world about the government’s suppression of fundamental freedoms, including freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We hope they will provide as much coverage as possible of the ordeal of Iran’s imprisoned journalists.
Unlike their Iranian colleagues, foreign reporters will be able to interview the families of the 54 journalists and netizens currently detained. This is a unique opportunity to remind the international community that Iranians have been jailed for years just for exercising their fundamental right to inform their fellow citizens.
Two of the last election’s presidential candidates – Mir Hossein Mousavi, a former prime minister and owner of the now closed newspaper Kalameh Sabaz, and Mehdi Karoubi, former parliamentary speaker and owner of the closed newspaper Etemad Melli – have been detained since 24 February 2011. Mousavi’s wife, the best-selling writer Zahra Rahnavard, is being held with him.
They are under house arrest and denied all their rights. Nonetheless, government officials have insisted that they are free. If that this the case, journalists should be able to meet with them and talk to them.


Because of infighting among the regime’s rival factions and tension with the international community, this election is already characterized by threats and fear. Between 17 and 27 May, nine daily newspapers – Bahar, Tabnak, Hezbollah, Kayhan, Vatan Emrooz, Sharvand, Iran, Haft Sobeh and Madromsalari – received warnings from the Press Authorization and Surveillance Commission, the censorship wing of the culture and Islamic guidance ministry.
According to Iran’s media law, “a warning is the first step towards suspension.” The website of Madromsalari, which is owned by Mostafa Kavakabian, one of the candidates barred by the Guardian Council, and two conservative websites, Ibnanews and Seratnews, have already been closed on the orders of a "working group that combats criminal content.”
And one other thing to think about in this Iranian election: It's unlikely to have any impact on Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons. Iran's Arak heavy water reactor (the one that's working on a plutonium bomb) is expected to be ready to go by March 2014.
A heavy water reactor in Arak, Iran, came one step closer to completion after it installed the "upper container," according to a report by the Fars News Agency, a news site associated with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
"Arak heavy water reactor will receive virtual fuel by the end of the (Iranian) year 1392 (March 2014)," said Fereidoun Abbasi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran (AEOI).
Abbasi made his comments during a ceremony celebrating the new installation, which Iran President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended.
In May, US diplomat Joseph Macmanus, who serves as the ambassador to the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), called the creation of the Arak reactor "deeply troubling."
He questioned Iran's refusal to "provide the requisite design information," information which the IAEA said Iran must provide in order to properly moniter the site.
In response, Iran's ambassador told reporters that Tehran had every determination to continue with plans to build the reactor regardless of international pressure to delay further building.
"We will not yeild to pressure, sanctions, threats of attack," Ambassador Ali Asghar Soltanieh said.
 Those sanctions are really having an effect, aren't they? What could go wrong?

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