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Iran suspends license of reformist newspaper

This statement was originally published on cpj.org on 24 June 2016.

An Iranian court prosecutor suspended the Iranian reformist newspaper Ghanoon's license following a legal complaint from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IGRC), the newspaper announced on June 20, 2016.

The newspaper's website said the ban was implemented to "prevent a crime," after the paper was accused of "publishing falsehood with the intent to cause disrupt in public opinion."

The IRGC, a powerful security agency, did not specify which of the newspapers reports had inspired the complaint.

At least two recent articles in the newspaper angered Iranian officials, however. On June 11, Ghanoon published an article, "A Doomed 24 hours," under the byline of its legal and judicial desk, which included testimony from of an unnamed prisoner who described mistreatment in Tehran's Great Penitentiary, including being allowed only two hours of access to dirty water for drinking a day.

Tehran's prosecutor General Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi described the article as false, the BBC's Persian Service reported. He added that the Iranian Prisons Organization had filed a legal complained against the newspaper's publisher, Mahnaz Mazaheri.

Ghanoon also came under attack in January for criticizing the way the IRGC handled the arrest of 10 U.S. Navy sailors who on January 12, 2016, were captured in Iranian waters.

That article, titled "Why was the American Hostage Crying?", was no longer on Ghanoon's website as of June 24, 2016, but was republished on Iranian websites. It likened videos the government circulated to journalists after the incident showing the captured sailors kneeling with their hands behind their heads to videos of beheadings carried out by the Islamic State group. IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari called the article "a big mistake," and said Ghanoon "must repent for what it had said," according to news reports.

Ghanoon was temporarily banned in 2014 over a report about possible corruption charges against a former member of the IRGC after he was released on bail, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, an advocacy group.

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