Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Association of Iranian Journalists Stays

Badrossadat Mofidi in Interview with Rooz

The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs ignored six letters from the Association of Iranian ‎Journalists (Anjoman-e Senfi-ye Ruzname Negaran) to hold a general meeting and abruptly ‎deemed the association eligible for dissolution. In an interview with Rooz, Badrossadat Mofidi, ‎Secretary of the Association of Iranian Journalists, discusses the details of and motives behind ‎the issue. ‎
Rooz (R): Ms. Mofidi, the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has deemed the Association of ‎Iranian Journalists eligible for dissolution. First tell us what is at the root of the disagreement ‎between the Ministry of Labor and the Association of Iranian Journalists? ‎
Badrossadat Mofidi (BM): Our disagreements with the Ministry of Labor date back to the ‎coming to power of the ninth administration. With the view that this administration held ‎regarding independent labor organizations, and the Association of Iranian Journalists in ‎particular, it has been striving to dissolve the association ever since. Previous governmentson the ‎other hand, meaning Mr. Khatami's administration, worked mostly to strengthen the guilds. But ‎the events that have taken place in connection with the Association of Iranian Journalists are that, ‎in 2006, the Association went through an election process following which it intended to hold a ‎third general meeting of its members when it suddenly faced a plethora of excuses and ‎hindrances from the Ministry of Labor, none of which had any legal basis. ‎
R: Can you cite more specific instances of the Ministry of Labor's hindrances? ‎BM: With only three days left for the third general meeting of its members which aimed at ‎appointing a new board of directors, the Ministry of Labor announced that because the ‎association's by-laws did not mention a third general meeting but only a first and second such ‎meeting, the association was not permitted to hold a third round of elections. ‎
R: What was the reaction of the Association of Iranian Journalists to the Ministry of Labor? ‎BM: The association immediately backed its claims by forwarding a letter written in 2001 by the ‎Ministry of Labor's deputy of labor organizations' affairs at the time which permitted the ‎association to hold a third general meeting in the presence of fifty members. In addition, because ‎the Ministry of Labor's newly appointed officials in 2006 had taken such a hardline position with ‎respect to a third general meeting and the association had already started the elections process, ‎we held elections pursuant to instructions set forth in the letter from 2001. ‎
R: Do you think political motivations are behind the Ministry of Labor's letter regarding the ‎Association's dissolution?‎BM: Their letter has two fundamental problems. First, it lacks legal basis and, secondly, it is ‎driven by political motivations. Apparently the gentlemen at the ministry expected the 1385 ‎‎[2007] elections to change the composition of the board of directors. But the results were not to ‎their liking. Therefore, we now face actions such as this. ‎
R: Can the Ministry of Labor legally dissolve the association?‎BM: From a legal standpoint, the Ministry of Labor does not have the power to do this. ‎According to regulations governing labor organizations, the Ministry of Labor does not have the ‎power to dissolve the association and the issue must be pursued in the appropriate court. ‎
R: Given these conditions, would the Association of Iranian Journalists, which has more than ‎‎4,000 members, be shut down or would it continue its existence? ‎BM: Look, when laws are inadequate, they do not dissolve organizations that are set up in ‎accordance with those laws, but reform the laws! The answer is to reform the laws so that the ‎‎4,000 members know where they stand. Dissolving the association is not the solution. Therefore, ‎the association will continue its lawful activities unless it is confronted with ways beyond legal ‎possibilities. ‎
R: What is the Association's next move?‎BM: We will first inform our members about what has taken place. Unfortunately, we have ‎heard reports from independent media outlets that they are placed under pressure by the Ministry ‎of Labor not to publish the viewpoints of the association. For instance, ISNA conducted an ‎interview with me in this regard which it was forced to retract half an hour later. The report ‎about the letter of the president of the association to the labor minister, which contained ‎comprehensive and exhaustive legal arguments, was never published.

The association's next ‎move is to hold a press conference and respond to questions from domestic and foreign media ‎networks. In the meantime, we will continue to communicate with officials and would even ask ‎Majlis representative, as representatives of the people, to pursue the association's violated rights ‎by posing questions to and even summon the labor minister. We would definitely file a ‎complaint with the judiciary against the Ministry of Labor as well.

Finally, we would file ‎complaints with international organizations such as those affiliated with the International ‎Federation of Journalists, and even independent civil society organizations, such as the United ‎Nation's International Labor Organization (ILO). This is because the Association of Iranian ‎Journalists has been recognized by and holds a seat at the ILO.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Americans Wanted to Kidnap Me!

Ahmadinejad's New Claim:‎‎

Even though a number of days have already passed since President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ‎claimed at a gathering of clerics in Qom that he had been the victim of a "failed kidnap and ‎assassination plot" during a trip to Iraq, no source has come forward to authenticate the ‎president's story. ‎
In its initial reaction, E'temad daily sought to verify Ahmadinejad's claim by asking the Iraqi ‎ambassador to Iran. At a higher level, Iraqi officials have been told of the claim but they have ‎denied it. Yesterday, Farda website reported that the Iraqi presidential council had denied the ‎existence of any attempts to kidnap or assassinate Ahmadinejad when he was in Baghdad, and ‎one of its members corroborated that position by saying, "I was one of the people who ‎accompanied Ahmadinejad from the moment he entered Baghdad until the end of his visit, and ‎throughout his visit no changes were implemented in the security plan of the Iraqi guards ‎charged with his protection, and Ahmadinejad was not threatened by any group." ‎
The denials include Iranian officials. The head of the National Security Committee of the Majlis, ‎Boroujerdi, is among them. He announced his ignorance regarding the plot to kidnap and ‎assassinate Ahmadinejad in Iraq, and told reporters, "The National Security Committee has not ‎received any reports about the plot to kidnap Ahmadinejad in Iraq." Government spokesperson ‎Gholamhossein Elham too refused to answer questions dealing with the president's controversial ‎claim in his latest meeting with reporters. ‎
Ahmadinejad's latest remarks in Qom were made at a meeting where only reporters from the ‎administration's official news agency - and not any others - were allowed to be present. Farda ‎website had previously reported that Ahmadinejad had asked the meeting's organizers not to ‎allow any reporters other than those affiliated with the administration's official news agency to ‎be present at the meeting during his speech. Nevertheless, Tabnak website quoted "a cleric who ‎was present in the meeting" as having said, "At the meeting of members of the [Qom Seminary ‎School] Teachers' Association, Ahmadinejad said, 'Coinciding with my trip to Iraq, the ‎Americans were planning to kidnap me in a well-planned plot and transfer me to the United ‎States, in order to seek concessions from the Islamic Republic for my return, using terrorism as ‎excuse." ‎
Iran daily, the administration's official newspaper, was the only newspaper that confirmed the ‎‎"conspiracy plot to kidnap Ahmadinejad" and concluded that the plot was foiled because of the ‎‎"God’s merciful will and prayers of the people." ‎
In return, newspapers critical of the Administration confronted the president’s remarks with ‎sarcasm and disbelief, posing several questions; for example, if the Americans wanted to kidnap ‎the president, why has the Iranian government not made any international complains? Why did ‎the Americans not arrest the president in New York, rather deciding to kidnap him in Iraq? Or, ‎why did the president decide to visit Italy, if he was facing kidnap threats outside Iran? ‎
In response to these questions posed by newspapers in Tehran, one of Ahmadinejad's close allies ‎revealed on Tuesday that Ahmadinejad was the target of an assassination plot at the United ‎Nations Food and Agriculture Organization's summit earlier this month in Rome. ‎
Fars News Agency published parts of a speech by the president's advisor for human resources ‎affairs. Ali Zabihi, who was speaking at a mosque in Tabriz to commemorate the third ‎anniversary of Ahmadinejad's election, while revering Ahmadinejad's "persistence in face of ‎threats," revealed the foiling of Ahmadinejad's assassination plot in Rome, adding, "The actions ‎of the president over the three previous years have endangered the illegitimate interests of many ‎people in Iran and outside. That is why some people have thought of eliminating or ‎assassinating the president, but the plots to assassinate the president in Iraq and at the Food and ‎Agriculture Organization (FAO) conference failed, thanks to God."‎
Such claims come at a time when even hardline Keyhan daily called Ahmadinejad’s claims as ‎‎"hurried" or “premature.” Keyhan wrote, "It seems as if some of the administration's remarks - ‎including the American attempt to kidnap the president in Iraq - are not appropriately measured ‎and this issue has at times inflicted serious harm on the administration and society in general."

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Ahmadinejad's Star is Descending

A former minister in Ahmadinejad’s administration – that of the ministry of the interior - broke ‎his silence to show that the administration's critics are not confined just to those outside the ‎administration. ‎
The recent interview of the ex-interior minister who was in charge of the ministry until 29 days ‎ago, has fueled the rise of what some call "a new front of administration critics from inside the ‎cabinet." Fararu website, which dubbed the term, noted, "Breaking the silence by ‎Pourmohammadi and the recollection of part of the untold story from his tenure at the ministry ‎was enough to signal a new message for President Ahmadinejad. The new message contained ‎news of the rise of a new front of administration critics from inside the cabinet." ‎
Former interior minister Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who carries years of experience serving in ‎the ministry of intelligence had previously said, "I would never be wiling to say something that is ‎harmful to the people and I never was or am willing to say such things to make myself feel ‎better." Less than a month from that promise, however, Pourmohammadi broke his silence and ‎in an interview with Hamshahri daily which is affiliated with Tehran's municipality, retold some ‎of the untold stories from his days as an insider in the ninth administration. ‎
The minister confirmed that disagreements with Ahmadinejad played a role in his departure from ‎his department, adding, "Among the ministers, no one could take a stance against the President. ‎He [Ahmadinejad] cannot tolerate criticism." ‎
Meanwhile, pro-reform E'temad daily noted that Tahmaseb Mazaheri, the governor of the ‎Central Bank of Iran remains the most serious critic of the administration's economic policies, ‎standing up to Ahmadinejad. Although he does not voice his opposition in confrontational or ‎overtly explicit terms, his refusal to enforce the presidential order to reduce the banking interest ‎rates is an implicit warning to the President that internal criticism of those inside the cabinet has ‎finally surfaced to the public. Such criticism in the past has resulted in the removal of the most ‎prominent cabinet ministers and has pushed those who are still in the cabinet to the edge of ‎dismissal. ‎
The former interior minister is the thirteenth cabinet or senior ranking member of Ahmadinejad’s ‎administration to have parted ways with the administration during its three years. The most ‎important ministers and officials that have either resigned or been dismissed during ‎Ahmadinejad's tenure are as follows: Davoud Danesh-Jafari (minister of finance and economy), ‎Ali Larijani (head of National Security Council, Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh (oil minister), ‎Mahmoud Farshidi (minister of education), Farhad Rahbar (president of Management and ‎Planning Organization), Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr (deputy interior minister in security ‎affairs), Rahman Fazli (deputy head of National Security Council), Alireza Tahmasbi (minister ‎of industry), Ebrahim Sheibani (governor of Central Bank), Mohammad Nazemi Ardekani ‎‎(minister of cooperatives), Parviz Kazemi (minister of welfare), and Jamal Karimi Rad (minister ‎of justice).‎
As such, half of Ahmadinejad's original cabinet members are now outside the administration. ‎One can hear the echoes of what Saeed Hajjarian once said, that Ahmadinejad's administration ‎was "disintegrating" because "Iran has been thrown into anarchy." ‎
Prior to Saeed Hajjarian's comments, the website of Al-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper posted the ‎comments of the former minister of culture and Islamic guidance during Khatami’s ‎administration, in which Ataollah Mohajerani wrote that Ahmadinejad's star was finally ‎tumbling down.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Government Dictating Headlines

Etemad Newspaper Forced to Retract its Headline
After Etemad newspaper published a report on the “failed” trip of President Mahmoud ‎Ahmadinejad to Rome to attend an international meeting of the Food and Agricultural ‎Organization, the President’s office officially asked the newspaper to announce ‎Ahmadinejad’s trip to FAO as “successful” in its headline the next morning, while also ‎publishing the response of the office to the newspaper’s original story.‎
Etemad newspaper is owned by prominent ayatollah Mehdi Karubi, a senior cleric, ‎politician and Speaker of the Majlis (Iran’s parliament) who was also a candidate during ‎the last presidential elections in 2005, with a record of criticizing policies of the current ‎administration.‎
Editorializing that the President was given a cold welcome by Italian officials, it wrote, ‎‎“While Ahmadinejad’s visit, and that of his accompanying team, was initially planned for ‎a 3-day stay, lack of proper coordination cut the visit short to a single day. Mahmoud ‎Ahmadinejad ended his 16 hour visit of Rome without meeting with any senior Italian ‎officials.”‎
Just a few hours after the distribution of the newspaper, the office of Iran’s President sent ‎a response to Etemad and emphatically requested that it be published in the next issue of ‎the daily. Because of this, Etemad had no choice but to change its headline on Monday to ‎the requested words of “The information Published in Yesterday’s Issue of Etemad was ‎Incorrect”, and replaced it with “Ahmadinejad’s Successful Presence at the FAO ‎session.”‎
The President’s response to Etemad’s story said that the daily’s report was a kind of ‎psychological warfare and in line with what Zionist media outside the country engaged ‎in”.‎