Iranian Censorship Act of Kindness: Javan

Photograph by Behrouz Medri/AFP via Getty Images

Iranians follow news from the newspapers outside a newsstand.

In a move that George Orwell might appreciate, a hardline Iranian newspaper said it erased a woman from a photograph of European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton for her own good.

Yesterday, Javan, which is affiliated with the Revolutionary Guards, cut Gohar Eshghi, the mother of blogger Sattar Beheshti who died in 2012 in police custody, from a photograph of Ashton and human rights activist Nargess Mohammadi at the Austrian Embassy in Tehran.

The headline above the picture said: “Meeting with seditionists is interference in domestic affairs.” In Iran the term “seditionists” refers to the supporters of opposition leaders Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karubi who have been under house arrest for more than three years. The doctored picture of Ashton brought heaps of scorn from social media activists.

Today, Javan, clarified that it was not censorship but rather kindness that prompted its actions. Eshghi, who the paper identified as the mother of a “blogger who, due to police violations, died in detention,” was also in the original picture, the newspaper “did not want to label her as a seditionist.”

After all, such a label can land you in jail.

Javan then turned the table on its accusers, saying that the paper’s act of kindness was seized upon by “seditionist media” and “the BBC, whose role in the 2009 sedition was clear” to try to destroy Javan.

The newspaper even claimed that, had it not erased Beheshti’s mother from the picture, some domestic newspapers would have critized Javan for labeling her “a seditionist.”

Mohammadi has been sentenced to six years in prison for crimes against the state and her human rights activities.


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