Iran bans daily critical of Ahmadinejad: report

TEHRAN (Reuters) - An Iranian newspaper has been banned after carrying articles critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s economic policies, the state Press TV satellite station said on its website.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attends an official meeting in Tehran June 15, 2008. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi

A government media body revoked the license of Tehran Emrooz on Saturday, Press TV said.

It said the newspaper was launched 18 months ago and was seen as being close to Tehran Mayor Mohammed Baqer Qalibaf, a conservative who analysts say is a potential rival of Ahmadinejad in next year’s presidential election.

Tehran Emrooz’s publisher was summoned to a court on Sunday to answer charges of “printing pictures and editorial material insulting to the president and propagation of lies with the intention of agitating public opinion”, Fars News Agency said.

The daily last week published a special issue on the third anniversary of Ahmadinejad’s election that included articles criticizing the government’s economic record, Press TV said.

The daily’s editorial board acknowledged in a statement on Sunday it had gone beyond fair criticism of the government and issued an apology, the official IRNA news agency said.

“We declare (that the special issue) ... was devoid of a fair and moderate stance, and the daily’s editorial board hereby apologizes to the government officials ... ,” IRNA quoted the board’s statement as saying.

Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2005 on a pledge to share Iran’s oil wealth more fairly, has come under mounting criticism from parliament, the media and the public over a failure to rein in inflation now running at around 25 percent annually.

Although Iran says it allows free speech, journalists say they have to tread carefully to avoid being closed down.

Earlier this month, Fars was shut down for three days, accused of publishing “lies” about the possible dismissal of the central bank governor, one of its editors said.

Since 2000, Iran has closed more than 100 publications, accusing many of being “pawns of the West”. Many subsequently reopened under different names.

Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Charles Dick