Iran again bans Web site critical of Ahmadinejad


TEHRAN — Iran has banned a popular conservative news Web site critical of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad for the second time in three months, the student ISNA news agency reported Sunday.

“The State Council examined the complaint against Baztab and voted for it to be banned,” an official in the State Council, a judiciary organ that deals with complaints against the government, told the agency.

Baztab, which published a range of news including articles critical of Ahmadinejad’s economic policies and his cabinet appointments, was earlier shut down in February for “acting against the constitution and spreading lies.”

The site, close to former Revolutionary Guards commander Mohsen Rezai, was reopened in March after MPs protested the closure and the case sent to the State Council.

Local media said that Baztab directors had reported that “Ahmadinejad and his allies filed 15 complaints to the judiciary” against the Web site.

“On several occasions this government has filed complaints against Baztab, directly and at Ahmadinejad’s behest,” the directors said in a letter, quoted by ISNA.

Baztab has been especially critical of the economic policies of Ahmadinejad’s government and its decision to hold a conference questioning the veracity of the Holocaust.

But it also had a record of being equally critical of Iran’s reformist, blasting the previous government of President Mohammad Khatami for being too soft in Iran’s nuclear standoff with the West.

The Baztab directors said that “despite the harsh criticism Baztab had towards the previous [reformist] administration, not even once [had] the presidential office sought legal action against the site.”

Iran’s media scene continues to be hit by closures of high-profile sites and newspapers by the hardline watchdog.

Under Ahmadinejad’s rule, shutdowns have affected not only moderate dailies like the centrist Shargh but also conservative publications like the ultra-hardline Siyasat E Ruz and the governmental Iran newspaper.

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