Shargh, one of the few reformist papers left in Iran, was banned today, partly for publishing a cartoon considered insulting, and partly because it didn’t change its director to a more conservative one.

After the paper was temporarily banned a while ago, it was ordered by the court to change its director within a month from August, but the paper requested an extension of two months for the deadline, which apparently was not approved.

Also, it published a cartoon a few days ago, showing 2 chess pieces – a white horse and a black donkey with (assumingly) a halo around its head. The title of the cartoon said: “The other Rule of the Game.”


It seems the donkey with the “halo” was perceived as insulting to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, in an allusion to his remarks about feeling a halo embracing him during his speech at the UN. (The donkey with the “halo” was perceived as Ahmadinejad at the negotiations table on Iran’s nuclear program.)

Many Iranian bloggers have quoted Shargh staff that the assumed halo was just a graphic contrast effect to highlight the black donkey on the black spot of the chess board. (Well, I personally believe the halo was intentionally put there, and it was so clever of the cartoonist to draw such a thing, and so stupid of the editor to allow its publication, considering the fucked-up situation of the media censorship in Iran.)

Many people who worked for Shargh also write blogs. Most of them have written about their sadness and frustration. Many other bloggers who were fans of the three-year-old paper have also written about its ban. Some other journalists have written about their sympathy and solidarity with the now unemployed journalists of Shargh.

Shargh staff after the ban of the paper – Photo by Hasan Sarbakhshian

One blogger has speculated that the paper was banned because the government of Iran is planning to compromise on its nuclear plan and is afraid of the reactions inside Iran. Since the government has run a huge propaganda inside Iran about its nuclear program, its credibility would be hugely challenged and it would be even mocked and humiliated by its critics in case of a compromise.

Another blogger has suspected that Shargh was banned so that it wouldn’t cover the news of Khatami’s successful trip to the US. After all, several papers were shut down after each of Khatami’s successful foreign trips when he was a president.

Another speculation, which I don’t think needs any proof or doubt, is that the government of Iran can’t tolerate its critics, and Shargh was one of the few papers left who criticized the government’s actions frequently.

Along with Shargh, an intellectual magazine, Naameh, and another paper, Hafez, have also been banned recently.

Another dark day for the Iranian media and “freedom of speech in Iran.” I’ve intentionally put “freedom of speech in Iran” in quotations, because it basically doesn’t exist!

I frequently read the paper online, keeping myself updated on what goes on in my country. It seems the only outlet left for Iranians in Diaspora to get updates about their country is reading the blogs written inside Iran or chatting with friends inside the country.

And it goes on and on and on, and it seems it’s not going to stop ever. What a doomed day 9/11is…

* News on the ban of the paper in Google News
* Red Lines and Deadlines – Wide Angle’s documentary on Shargh in 2004