Following years of informal policy, Iran has officially banned media from portraying or quoting former president Mohammad Khatami.
Khatami was president from 1997 to 2005, and was succeeded by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. During that time, he attempted to pass several social, political and economic reform measures, seeking greater openness to the West and freedom in expression and business. These efforts attracted hostility from hard-liners close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
After his tenure as president, he continued to work for a “dialogue of civilizations” and international nuclear disarmament. But his outspokenness for political and social freedoms, and his support for blacklisted 2009 presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi, led lawmakers last year to petition the Justice Minister to enforce a media blackout against Khatami.
And Monday, a Justice Ministry spokesman confirmed that all print and broadcast media would be banned from depicting Khatami, going so far as to only refer to him in the statement as “this person.”
Iranian citizens have fought back in the days since the new ruling, flooding social media sites with photos. Many were labeled with a Persian-language hashtag that means “We will be Khatami’s media.”
They said it’s forbidden?! Let’s share the photo of both Mohammad Khatami and Mirhussein Moussavi. pic.twitter.com/MnMFFUQtlB
— Mahdi Taghizadeh (@mahdi) February 17, 2015
— Elham Sharifikolouei (@elisharifi89) February 17, 2015
This Instagram post includes the caption “Khatami cannot be eliminated”:
Many other Instagram posts, unfettered by character limits, include lengthy poems, an ages-old form of expression in Persian culture. These days, Khatami enjoys a “grand old man” status among Iranian activists, which gives many of the social media posts a sense of warmth and nostalgia.
While many forms of social media are officially banned in Iran, young people and activists have many ways of subverting the digital firewalls. Despite the ban, President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and the Supreme Leader himself all maintain semi-official Twitter presences.
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