THE AYATOLLAH'S government wishes to encourage positive thinking about the event in Iran. To that end it is following the sadly familiar method of harassing the dissenters. To enforce a brighter view of things, it is now kicking out foreign correspondents and shutting down those domestic papers that refuse to conform.
Iran has now expelled the correspondents of The New York Times and the Los Angeles Times, and an NBC-TV crew. Armed militia closed a major newspaper, Ayandegan, this week on charges of publishing "misguided thoughts against Moslems" and creating general discord. Simultaneously several smaller publications suddently ceased publication with obscure explanations or none at all.
Why this burst of coercion just now? It follows last week's election, in which all parties except the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini's were denied access to television and radio. Most of those parties finally boycotted the vote. Perhaps the ayatollah's regime wishes to end the discussion of the nature of its victory in the election. The regime is certainly correct in anticipating that the other parties would now seek to make themselves heard through the press.
By cutting off political debate in Iran, the government will only succeed in drawing greater attention to its critics and assailants in exile. It is ironic that the revoluntionary government should make this mistake, since it was precisely similar repression by the shah that made the Ayatollah Khomeini himself such a symbol of opposition when he was in France. Now Shahpour Bakhtiar, the last pre-revolutionary premier and the ayatollah's adversary, has turned up in France to hold press conferences. An expatriated politician's authority as a commentator always rises in direct proportion to the degree of censorship at home.
The conditions of political freedom under the ayatollah are certainly no worse than they were under the shah. But it is lamentable that, after all the revolution's early hopes, they are not much better.