Iran Cracks Down on Its Press

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This week’s visit of President Mohammed Khatami to the U.N. in New York City should provide another example of how the moderate former philosophy professor is trying to open Iran to the world. Too bad he is not having more success opening Iran to itself.

Last week Khatami’s conservative opponents in the judiciary shut down Tous, the most remarkable newspaper to appear in Iran since the 1979 Islamic revolution. Regarded as the most tangible result of Khatami’s pledge of greater freedom, the seven-month-old daily attracted a readership of 300,000 but infuriated hard-liners with stories on previously taboo topics, including political dissent, U.S. relations and the wisdom of a military confrontation with neighboring Afghanistan.

The shutdown came swiftly after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s “final notice” to government officials to curtail press freedom. Indefatigable Tous editor Mahmoud Shamsolvaezin had managed to get his paper back on the streets after two previous closures, once by changing its original name, Jameyeh. But last week he was in prison with four Tous colleagues, facing a revolutionary trial. There was no word from Khatami.