The Iranian Culture Ministry [official website, in Persian] announced Monday that it will shut down media outlets that publish reports on opposition leaders. The government warned media outlets [CP report] against reports on opposition leaders, marking the government's first public acknowledgment of such censorship. There has been no mainstream media coverage of the two most prominent opposition presidential candidates, Mir Hossein Mousavi and Mahdi Karroubi, in months. Iran has already shut down most pro-reform publications and blocked the Internet sites in an attempt to silence criticism of last year's disputed presidential election [JURIST news archive], in which President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was re-elected. The Culture Ministry also expressed that it is attempting to stop a perceived plot, aided by the West, to overturn the current regime.
In recent months, Iran has prosecuted members of the media for crimes against the state. Last month, Iranian blogger Hossein Derakhshan, known for popularizing blogs in Iran was sentenced to 19.5 years imprisonment [JURIST report] for cooperating with hostile countries, spreading propaganda against the ruling establishment, promoting counterrevolutionary groups and maintaining obscene websites. In addition to serving his prison sentence, Hossein Derakhshan faces a five-year ban from membership in political parties and fines totaling nearly USD $45,000. Also last month, Branch 26 of the Revolutionary Court of Iran [GlobaLex backgrounder] sentenced [JURIST report] Shiva Nazar Ahari, a journalist arrested following the 2009 presidential election, to six years in prison. During the Tehran trial, conducted by head judge Pyrabasy, Ahari faced charges of warring against God [CHRR report], known in Islamic law as Moharebeh, conspiring to commit a crime, propaganda against the revolution and disturbing the public order, violating several articles of the Islamic Penal Code of Iran [Mehr backgrounder].