Ali Motahari

Tehran MP Ali Motahari says freedom of speech has become more strained under the Rohani administration and self-censorship has become more common in the media.

He stressed that continued pressure on the Rohani administration is the chief cause of the strain on the media.

Motahari said in an interview with Tasnim website that when the administration is reformist, there will be more pressure to prevent the government’s tendency toward opening the political atmosphere.

He stressed that self-censorship becomes more prominent under these conditions, as publishing permits keep being revoked and newspapers shut down.

Motahari says the Press Supervisory Board becomes irrelevant when press outlets are being closed by direct order from the prosecutor without its input. The board has representatives from various bodies including seminaries, Parliament and the judiciary.

The judiciary has closed down several newspapers and publications without any consultation with the Press Supervisory Board.

Mardom Emrooz and Roozan are just some of the newspapers that were recently closed by the direct action of the Tehran prosecutor’s office.

Referring to his father, Ayatollah Motahari, one of the 1979 Revolution ideologues who was assassinated, Motahari said: “The fact is that at the beginning of the Revolution, the late ayatollah Motahari expressed his vision of having all parties, even the non-Islamic, active in politics, as long as they did it under their own banner. Even Ayatollah Khomeini, the late leader of the Revolution, said even communists will have the right to free speech and political activity. Now compare this with today’s situation.”

Motahari said decisions taken in the 1980s during the war between Iran and Iraq should not become precedents for government action in the current situation. During the Iran-Iraq War, the government engaged in a widespread crackdown on dissidents and executed many of them.

Motahari, who has repeatedly spoken out against the house arrest of opposition leaders MirHosein Mousavi, Mehdi Karroubi and Zahra Rahnavard, said it is not right to arrest anyone who expresses some criticism, calling such actions counter to Islam and the teaching of its prophet.

Motahari was recently interrupted by a number of heckling MPs in Parliament for once again trying to voice his opposition to the house arrest of the opposition leaders. He was forced to abandon his speech.