Friday , 21 June 2024

Iran Sets Series Of Debates For Election Campaign, Warns Media On Coverage

RFL/RE – Iranian authorities have announced the commencement of the campaign season for upcoming early presidential elections amid a judicial crackdown on media outlets accused of misrepresenting election coverage.

The six approved candidates in Iran's upcoming presidential election (clockwise from top right): Saeed Jalili, Amirhossein Ghazizadeh Hashemi, Mostafa Pourmohammadi, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, Alireza Zakani, Masud Pezeshkian (composite file photo)

State broadcaster IRIB said electoral debates are scheduled to begin on June 17, with five planned through June 25, three days before voters head to the polls in a snap election, which was called following the death of President Ebrahim Raisi in a helicopter crash last month.

This announcement of the campaign comes amid reports that the Tehran prosecutor’s office has taken legal action against two local media outlets, Hashieh News and Bamdadno, on charges of distributing what the judiciary calls “false news” about the elections.

Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejei, the head of Iran’s judiciary, warned media and all candidates — both the group of six who qualified to contest the election, and more than two dozen others whose candidacies were rejected — of avoiding “actions” that could be “exploited” by foreign entities.

Furthermore, Ejei cautioned various media platforms against engaging in “defamatory speech, spreading lies, or disturbing public opinion,” as they could end up suffering legal consequences.

Last week, the Iranian government issued strict guidelines in which any content deemed to be aimed at discouraging voter turnout or promoting election boycotts, as well as organizing any form of unlicensed protest gatherings, strikes, or sit-ins, is now classified as “criminal.”

The rules mimic previous election mandates and carry severe punishments, including the potential for as many as 74 lashes for those found in violation.

In a significant show of political dissent, Ali Larijani, a prominent figure and former speaker of parliament, publicly criticized the Guardians Council’s opaque disqualification practices.

Larijani, who was disqualified from the 2021 presidential race allegedly due to his daughter’s residence in the United States, penned an open letter expressing his grievances.SEE ALSO:Iran’s ‘Highly Engineered’ Race For Presidency Dominated By Hard-Liners

The Guardians Council’s list of approved candidates notably excludes several key figures from the current and former administrations, paving the way for a predominantly conservative slate of candidates for the upcoming election.

Five of the candidates are considered hard-liners and conservatives. Only one is a reformist candidate.

Observers said the vote is likely to be a straight fight between two hard-liners: parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf and Saeed Jalili, an ultraconservative former chief nuclear negotiator and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s representative on the Supreme National Security Council.

The election comes against a backdrop of widespread public disillusionment, with decreasing voter turnout blamed on allegations of noncompetitive electoral processes.

In recent elections, the authorities severely limited the playing field by disqualifying most moderate and reformist candidates, which may have contributed to the low voter participation seen in recent balloting.

Rights groups have complained of an intensified clampdown on public expressions of discontent since Raisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and several others died in the helicopter crash in a mountainous region of northwestern Iran on May 19 while returning from an official visit to Azerbaijan.