Iran’s Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ali Jannati has come under fire for comments he made during an interview with Al Jazeera English.
“Mr Jannati is not at the level to define the judiciary’s responsibilities,” Iran’s Prosecutor General and Spokesperson for the Judiciary, Gholamhossein Mohseni Ejehi, told reporters at a press conference on Wednesday.
The Al Jazeera question was a loaded question, aiming to provoke people against the Judiciary. If an intelligent and savvy official is confronted by a foreign network, he must not answer such a question this way.
On January 11, Jannati told Talk to Al Jazeera programme that the Iranian judiciary needs to loosen restrictions on Iranian media and artists so that it operates more in line with the policies of the new Rouhani administration.
“President Hassan Rouhani is making more room for freedom of the press, for the publishing sector and the film industry and we are trying to create a more open atmosphere for artists” Jannati told Al Jazeera’s Stephen Cole, adding that the political, economic and cultural policies of the new president are different from those of the previous administration.
Jannati cut to the heart of the judiciary when he pointed to a lack of change within that particular branch of Iran’s government.
“While the head of the Executive branch has changed, the head of the judiciary is still the same,” Jannati said.
When asked whether or not he thought changes should be made within the judiciary, Jannati said, “naturally, our judiciary needs to be in tune with the changes that are taking place in our country, and we hope to see the same types of changes in the judiciary as well.”
Social media storm
Ejehi accused Al Jazeera’s Cole of posing a leading question when he asked whether or not the atmosphere of change extends to the judiciary.
“The Al Jazeera question was a loaded question, aiming to provoke people against the judiciary,” he said. “If an intelligent and savvy official is confronted by a foreign network, he must not answer such a question this way.”
An Iranian newspaper, the Iran Pulse, also reported that according to Ejehi, Jannati felt that his comments were distorted by Al Jazeera. But while Ejehi has allegedly called for the minister to publicly admit allegations of distortion and poor translation, he has not done so.
Jannati’s interview generated a social media storm in Iran, especially after he made a comment that Facebook would become more accessible to Iranians in the near future.
“With the cooperation of other ministers we are now trying to create a condition where everyone in Iran has access to Facebook which is a way for people to communicate, keep in touch and exchange ideas. I think right now many Iranians are using Facebook. Sooner or later this restriction must be lifted,” Jannati said.
The Iranian judiciary has refused to follow through on promises made during the 2013 election of President Rouhani to release 80 political prisoners. It has also increased the rate of executions in the country, according to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran.