Iran bans newspaper that linked supreme leader to poverty

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) – Iranian judicial authorities reportedly banned a newspaper on Monday for publishing a front-page graphic that appeared to show Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s hand plotting the poverty line in the Islamic Republic amid widespread anger at the country’s cratered economy.

The semi-official Mehr news agency said the Iranian media watchdog shut down the daily Kelid after it ran a front-page article on Saturday titled “Millions of Iranians Living Below Poverty Line.”

Below the title, the graphic shows a person’s left hand holding a pen and drawing a red line on the page as silhouettes of people below reach the line.

The graphic looked like an earlier image of Khamenei writing on a piece of paper with his left hand, a prominent ring on one of his fingers. His law has been crippled since a bomb attack in 1981.

The Young Journalists Club, a group associated with state television, reported earlier that censors were reviewing the newspaper after publication. The official IRNA news agency admitted that Kelid had been closed, without explaining the reason for this decision.

Kelid was unable to immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday. Their website has been taken offline.

Iran, whose state-dominated economy has long been struggling since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, has come under increased pressure since former President Donald Trump unilaterally pulled America out of the Tehran nuclear deal with the world powers in 2018.

The Iranian rial is now worth around 281,500 per dollar, up from 32,000 rials per $ 1 when the 2015 nuclear deal was reached. While US sanctions still strangle the economy, record inflation has hit ordinary Iranians where it hurts the most. Stunned shoppers cut meat and dairy products from their diet, buying less and less each month.

While radio and television stations are all state-controlled in Iran, newspapers and magazines can be owned and published by individuals. However, Iranian journalists are constantly harassed and threatened with arrest in the country, according to press pressure groups.

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