Iranian Newspaper Shut Down Over ‘I Am Charlie’ Cover Featuring George Clooney

Mardom-e Emrooz cover, "Clooney: I am Charlie too."

Mardom-e Emrooz cover, “Clooney: I am Charlie too.”

Newspaper coverage of the Charlie Hebdo shootings in Paris have stirred strong reactions across Iran's newspapers.

Reformist leaning newspaper Mardom-e Emrooz was shut down after running a front page cover on January 13 quoting American actor George Clooney, who ended his Golden Globe acceptance speech by saying “I am Charlie”. A media court rule for its closure, while the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, responsible for the press, revoked the newspapers license.

This was followed by a cover run by the hardline newspaper Vatan-e Emrooz with the title “Death to Charlie” on January 20.

Vatan-e Emrooz runs the cover page "Death to Charlie"

Vatan-e Emrooz runs the cover page “Death to Charlie”

A total of 17 people were killed during an attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and another two days later on a Jewish supermarket. Iranian officials have condemned the violence, while also calling the magazine's cartoons offensive to Muslims.

Shahram Rafizadeh, an Iranian newspaper expert and Radio Farda columnist covering Iranian media, explained in an interview with Global Voices how the conversation surrounding the Paris tragedy evolved in Iran's press:

There are two perspectives on Charlie Hebdo. First, is the attack on the actions of the Charlie Hebdo. Most newspapers and stories gave this considerable space. Conservative [newspaper] Kayhan even published the story of Ahmad Khatami, the Tehran Friday prayer leader condemning the attackers of Charlie Hebdo. This led to the publication of George Clooney in Mardom-e Emrooz saying “I am Charlie Hebdo.” However, immediately after the French magazine went ahead with the publication of their Mohammad caricatures, Iran's hardline conservatives attacked reformists and those close to [Iranian President Hassan] Rouhani for supporting the magazine, accusing them of thinking like Charlie Hebdo, and sending [Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs] Javad Zarif as an envoy to march in solidarity during the Paris commemoration. Kayhan’s first page against Mardom-e Emrooz was then a reaction to this. Thursday Kayhan attacks Mardom, then by Saturday they shut them down entirely.

The hardline newspaper Kayhan, who's management is closely tied to the office of the Supreme Leader, printed a cover page stating, “Welcome to the official dance that writers are blindly dictating,” followed by a cartoon of a Nigerian activist asking the world leaders who marched in Paris to join them for the 2,000 Nigerians massacred by Boko Haram. 


Kayhan front page, in reaction to George Clooney cover of Mardom-e Emrooz.

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