Editor Upholds Ideology Of Iran's Islamic Revolution Hossein Shariatmadari, chief editor of Iran's conservative Kayhan newspaper, was once imprisoned and tortured by the Shah of Iran's intelligence agency. Now, he edits an edgy newspaper full of sarcasm for perceived enemies, including the United States.
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Editor Upholds Ideology Of Iran's Islamic Revolution

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Editor Upholds Ideology Of Iran's Islamic Revolution

Editor Upholds Ideology Of Iran's Islamic Revolution

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne in Washington.

STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And I'm Steve Inskeep reporting this week from Tehran.

If the United States reaches out to Iran, its people will learn about it through the media, which we'll hear about next. We picked up two papers at a newsstand. A conservative paper backs Iran's regime. A reform or liberal paper had a front page story on a remark by President Obama.

According to our interpreter, the reform paper said Obama offered a hand to Iran if it unclenches its fist.

(Soundbite of street traffic)

INSKEEP: So they're talking about the possibility of the United States changing its relations with Iran and reporting them. Now, let's go over to the conservative newspaper. How does that play that same story?

PESHMON(ph) (Interpreter): Well, Kayhan, it's saying Obama is repeating the same nonsense accusations towards Iran. They are saying Obama is putting his steps - at the same footsteps of George Bush.

INSKEEP: And it's got a photograph from around the time of the inauguration where you have the new president, Barack Obama, with the old president, George W. Bush. The suggestion being nothing really has changed. The U.S. is still our enemy.

PESHMON: Yeah, exactly. Exactly the same thing.

INSKEEP: The editor of that conservative paper is the first of two newsmen we'll meet in this part of the program. When you reach his office, the first thing you see is pictures of men now dead. Black and white photos hang in the lobby. It's a row of more than a dozen young men - former newspaper employees -killed in the Iran-Iraq War.

Upstairs we shake hands with a man in a sweater, a gray-bearded man with a mild look in his eyes.

Mr. HOSSEIN SHARIATMADARI (Editor, Kayhan): My name is Hossein Shariatmadari. I'm the chief editor of Kayhan Newspaper Daily.

INSKEEP: Switching from English to Farsi, the editor says we defend the ideology of the Islamic revolution. We sit sipping tea and ask the editor about Iran's upcoming presidential election.

Are conservatives united on what to do and whom to support?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHARIATMADARI: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: I disagree with the word conservative, he says, and also with fundamentalists. It makes us sound like the Taliban. We are principalists, he says. That's his term for hardliners who've held ultimate powers since Iran's 1979 revolution.

Hossein Shariatmadari joined that revolution. He was a student activist in the 1970s, printing leaflets denouncing the shah of Iran. He caught the attention of shah's intelligence agency called SAVAK.

Mr. SHARIATMADARI: I was arrested by SAVAK and sentenced to life. I was tortured. They pulled my nail.

INSKEEP: Your fingernails?

Mr. SHARIATMADARI: Yeah, my fingernails. And electric shock.

INSKEEP: He says he was freed when the shah's government fell. Now he edits an edgy newspaper full of sarcasm for perceived enemies, including the United States. Lately he's been thinking about the American defense secretary.

Mr. SHARIATMADARI: (Foreign language spoken)…Robert Gates…

INSKEEP: And he opens his broadsheet newspaper to an article about Robert Gates. The article claims that the defense secretary made a derogatory statement years ago about Iran. Gates has been quoted at various times saying he thinks there are no Iranian moderates. The newspaper Kayhan reinvents that statement as a headline - a headline that's never been attributed to the defense secretary: Gates Says a Good Iranian is a Dead Iranian.

Mr. SHARIATMADARI: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: He says the U.S. and Iran can only get along if one country gives up its identity, which he says Iran will never do.

Hossein Shariatmadari is forecasting that Iran's hard-line president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, will win re-election this year. He dismisses speculation that other hardliners might challenge him.

Mr. SHARIATMADARI: I don't think so.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SHARIATMADARI: (Foreign language spoken)

INSKEEP: Maybe somebody will oppose him, he says, but nobody serious. In this summer's campaign, President Ahmadinejad will have many advantages, including the power of hard-line newspapers like Kayhan.

We're still at a newsstand on a Tehran street. We're looking at the piles of publications that are available. We're with our interpreter, Peshmon. I'd like to just ask, though, are there fewer newspapers here than there might have been a couple of years ago?

PESHMON: Yes, yes, definitely, yes. I can now point it out there are only three newspapers here that I can see that they are a little bit reformist or more liberal. Most of them are conservative and hard-line newspapers.

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