Tehran, Aug 18 A new budget amendment adopted by the dominant ultra-conservative faction in the Iranian parliament is set to concentrate enormous powers over the mass media in the hand of a former general of the Revolutionary Guards who now heads the Voice and Vision of the Islamic Republic, the state-owned broadcasting monopoly in Iran.
The amendment to the governments Fourth Development Plan, expected to be endorsed by the watchdog Guardian Council, will give exclusive control over Irans internet network and access to satellite and cable television programs to the VVIR.
The amendment was opposed by a small minority of Majlis deputies, who wanted the control over access to the internet and satellite television to be given to several ministries, including the Ministry of Islamic Guidance and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
The Majlis decision turns Revolutionary Guards Brig. Gen. Ezzatollah Zarghami, who already heads the powerful radio and television monopoly, into the Censor in Chief of information in the Islamic Republic. Zarghamis agency is one of numerous state institutions that are not under government control, but report directly to the Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The move is also in line with Khameneis efforts, in the past few months, to extend the control of the Revolutionary Guards over key government and state institutions.
Zarghami is one of Khameneis most trusted confidants and has for long been involved in the suppression of dissidents at home and terrorist activities abroad. He has close ties with Maj. Gen. Rahim Safavi, the Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander in Chief, his deputy, Mohammad Bagher Zolghadr, and the Corps counter-intelligence chief Morteza Rezai.
In the 1990s, Zarghami, Saeed Emami, then deputy Intelligence Minister, and Brig. Gen. Ali Agha Mohammadi were responsible for the grisly murder of several dissidents in Iran and waged a propaganda campaign to discredit the opposition.
Zarghamis new powers come in the midst of escalating clampdown on newspapers and publishers in Iran.