Iran bans newspaper linking supreme leader to poverty

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DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Iranian judicial authorities reportedly banned a newspaper Monday for publishing a front-page image that appeared to show Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s hand charting the poverty line in the Islamic Republic, in amid the widespread anger at the collapse of the economy.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said the Iranian media oversight body shut down the Kelid newspaper after it ran a front-page article on Saturday entitled “Millions of Iranians Living Below the Poverty Line.”

Below the title, the graphic shows a person’s left hand holding a pen and draws a red line across the page as the silhouettes of the people below reach the line.

The graphics resembled an earlier image of Khamenei writing on a piece of paper with his left hand, a prominent ring on one of his fingers. His right hand is paralyzed by a 1981 bombing.

The Young Journalists Club, a group associated with state television, previously reported that censors were reviewing the paper after it was published. State news agency IRNA acknowledged that Kelid had been shut down, without explaining why.

Kelid could not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. His website has been taken offline.

Iran, whose state-dominated economy has long faced problems since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has come under increasing pressure since United States President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the Tehran nuclear deal with the world powers in 2018.

The Iranian rial is now around US $ 281,500, up from 32,000 rials to US $ 1 at the time of the 2015 nuclear deal. With US sanctions still choking the economy, record inflation has hit ordinary Iranians where it hurts the most. Stunned shoppers are cutting meat and dairy from their diets, buying less and less every month.

While radio and television stations are all state-controlled in Iran, newspapers and magazines can be privately owned and published. However, according to pressure groups, Iranian journalists face constant harassment and threats of arrest.

The Committee for the Protection of Journalists called on Iran to immediately revoke its decision to ban the newspaper.

“A sincere and open account of everyday issues is of vital importance to the Iranian public,” said Sherif Mansour, program coordinator of the Middle East and North Africa Committee. “The Iranian authorities must allow Kelid to resume operations immediately and stop any attempt to censor the media.”

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