Middle East

Iran nuclear: Media ordered to be positive about deal

Iranians celebrate the nuclear deal, 20 July 2015 Image copyright AP
Image caption Iranians celebrate - the press should do the same says the government

The Iranian authorities have ordered the media not to criticise the recent nuclear agreement with world powers, it has emerged.

A top secret document sent to newspaper editors has surfaced on the internet.

Issued by the ministry in charge of the press, the two-page document faxed to media organisations relays directives from Iran's Supreme National Security Council. It says editors should praise the deal and the negotiating team.

It stresses the need "to safeguard the achievements of the talks"; avoid sowing "doubt and disappointment among the public"; and avoid giving the impression of "a rift" at the highest levels of government.

It's been the reformist newspapers in Iran that have been the target of such orders in the past - orders that for example sought to stifle debate about the advisability of the whole nuclear programme, and its cost to the nation.

But this secret document seems to target the hardline newspapers for once - newspapers that have been critical of the nuclear deal reached in Vienna on 14 July.

Nuclear deal, main points

Image copyright AP
Image caption Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - yet to declare publicly

The order enacted a few days ago seems to have worked. There is hardly a dissenting voice. This is while the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has not come out for or against the deal, preferring to wait for the time being.

The directive to the editors of the newspapers and news agencies shows how nervous the authorities are about reaction from the hardliners who occupy key positions in many of the country's centres of power, including the Revolutionary Guards corp.

In the first days following the agreement, the hardliners were very critical of the deal, complaining about a host of undertakings that Iran had given at the talks.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Hardliners, such as the Revolutionary Guards, are thought to have doubts about the agreement

But most importantly, to them the deal meant Iran has foregone its ability to build nuclear weapons in return for lifting of the sanctions.

The hardliners have always harboured the idea that Iran should be capable of building the bomb, so that it could boast about it and deter Israel as well as the US from ever contemplating an attack.

They always entertained the hope that Iran could reach the point of being only the turn-of-a-screw away from the building the bomb.

Under the deal, Iran maintains a much smaller nuclear programme while world powers believe they have closed all its pathways to making a bomb.

The silence of Iran's Supreme Leader so far has been interpreted as approval, albeit reluctant.

He has said time and again that Iran went to the talks on the basis of expediency. This is a reference to the chaos the sanctions created for the Iranian economy.

The directive to the editors relaying the orders of the country's top national security body, the Supreme National Security Council, means that Iran has decided it will abide by the agreement and that it will pass the scrutiny of parliament too.

The question now is whether the hardliners will go along. While the directive has worked for the time being, they will not necessarily remain silent.

Directive to editors, key points

  • The need to safeguard the achievements of the talks which are amongst top national security and interests of the country
  • Avoid selectivity in the analysis of the achievements of the talks
  • Avoid impression of rift amongst top levels of the government on talks
  • Emphasis on explanation of the agreement
  • Avoid creation of doubt and disappointment among the public
  • Avoid impression of rift between govt and people
  • Avoid the creation of impression of gap between achievement of talks and Islamic, revolutionary and national ideals
  • Explanatory attitude instead of critical treatment of the story
  • Note the big achievements in our nuclear programme as a result of the agreement
  • Emphasise the importance of the two sides in the agreement remaining committed to it

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