Pro-government printers at Iran's largest daily newspaper published a pivate edition today in what Iranian journalists regarded as an attempt by Islamic fundamentalists to tighten control over the country's news media.
The incident at the afternoon newspaper, Kayhan, marked the second setback this week for Iranian journalists trying to publish independent dailies under the new Islamic leadership of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.
The liberal morning paper Ayandegan stopped publishing Sunday after it was denounced by Khomeini whose followers attacked several of its provincial offices in protest over articles they denounced as "counterrevolutionary,"
As the controversy over domestic press freedom has mounted, the government also has indicated it plans to move toward some kind of control over foreign correspondents here. Officials are talking about having the correspondents voluntarily submit their copy for review with the possibility of curbs on those reporters who publish news items that are "wrong."
With may Iranians complaining about government censorship of the state-run radio and television network and growing official intolerance toward criticism in newspapers and magazines, the latest publishing crisis threatened to provoke a showdown over press freedom.
A spokesman for the leftist daily Peygham Emruz charged that the Khomeini camp has "no other objective than the establishment of absolute fascism."
Even Kayhan's afternoon competitor, Etelaat, considered the most docile of the large dailies in toeing the Khomeini line, called on the ayatollah's followers in a front-page editorial to "stop irresponsible people from interfering with the press and acting against press freedom."
The Kayhan incident started when its "Islamic Workers' Association" carred 22 members of the editorial staff they had singled out as "leftists" or "communists." Most of the approximately 120 editorial staffers then went on strike in protest, and the workers brought out the paper themselves.
Its front page headline was Khomeini's call for a "World Islamic Revolution" and the only photograph in the issue was of the bearded ayatollah. There was no foreign news.
Iranian journalists have charged that Khomeini's entourage has been involved in organizing militant Moslem workers at newspaper plants in an effort to impose an indirect form of press censorship.
In discussing proposals for foreign correspondents. Information Ministry officials say they may create a set of press "guidelines" and a special office to "check" news about Iran before it is transmitted abroad. The officials stress that submitting copy would be strictly voluntary.
If, however, authority decide that a news item was "wrong" and a request to publish a "correction" was ignored, "we would be obliged to prevent the correspondent's activities in Iran," a senior Information Ministry official said.
Officials also said they intend to "review" the work of foreign correspondents and favor those who "tell the truth" while barring entry to those who publish "lies." As was the case under the shah, however, officials seem to equate these standards with favorable and unfavorable stories.
Some restrictions have already been imposed on the transmission of news film abroad, according to cameraman here.
Many Iranians have become increasingly critical of what they regard as the spreading censorship. Special criticism seems to be reserved for the government radio and television complex.
"If you turn on the radio or TV, the first thing you hear is about Khomeini," said one middle-class Iranian. "It's just like the old days when the news of the shah had to come first."
At Pars, the official news agency, not much has changed except that staffers have to publish what they are told to by Khomeini's officials instead of the shah's.
Recently even Khomeini's grandson, Hossein Khomeini, a 19-year-old theological student, complained about the situation. "No steps have been taken to remove censorship and establish freedom of expression," he said, referring to the radio and television. "Censorship is greater now than it was before," he added.
The ayatollah's office disavowed the remarks, which were reportedly by neither the government news agency nor by the officials radio and television. The office dismissed the remarks as the younger Khomeini's personal opinions.
In a another development, Khomeini was quoted as reaffirming his government's earlier call for the assassination of the deposed shah, members of his immediate family and several former government ministers on the Islamic Republic's list of enemies.
The statement came in a speech by an associate, Ayatollah Sadegh Khalkhali, at a "Palestine Day" rally organized by the Islamic Republican Party at Tehran University.
Addressing a crowd of about 30,000, Khalkhali read a message from Khomeini predicting that the Iranian revolution would "upset the designs of both East and West."
Khomeini's message said anyone-whether Iranian, Palestinan "or from the Bahamas themselves"-who assassinated Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi would not be a terrorist but an agent of Iran's revolutionary courts.
The shah and members of his immediately family are currently in the Bahamas.
"No government has the right to arrest any agent who carries out this order," the message added. "America shoul know that these people [on the death list] are thieves, torturers, murderers and responsible for massacres and that the Iranian nation has given them death sentences."