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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

WORLD VIEW: Los Ageles Times

A free press is essential to a free society. People who live in democracies know that. People who run authoritarian regimes know it even better, which is why they insist on controlling the flow of information through censorship, repression and a monopoly on news dissemination. Iran's ruling conservative clerics have taken a major step backward by denying 70 million Iranians what they should have the right to know.

Last week, supreme religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced a number of publications for allegedly undermining Islamic and revolutionary principles. This week, Iran's judicial authorities shut down eight dailies and four magazines that had been in the forefront of pro-democracy efforts.

There's little doubt about who holds the commanding heights in the power struggle between reformers and reactionaries. Yet, in the late 1970s, it also seemed that power was firmly held by the regime of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. Defiant crowds of protesters shattered that illusion.

Now, by using the full power of the state to stifle dissent, deny an outlet for grievances and quash any challenges to their rule, Iran's religious hard-liners may well be inviting the same explosion of hostility and frustration that ended the long reign of their predecessor.

April 25