- Published on Friday, 08 June 2012 05:44
This article, written by Roland Elliott Brown, appeared on Foreign Policy on June 01,2012
Has the Islamic Republic lost its mirth? In early May, Mahmoud Shokraye, a cartoonist for the Iranian newspaper Nameye Amir, was sentenced to 25 lashes for depicting an MP, Ahmad Lotfi Ashtiani, as a soccer player. The mild satire, which an Iranian "press court" deemed "insulting," was a reference to Ashtiani's populist proposal to transfer a Tehran soccer team, Naft, to his constituency in the central-western city of Arak.
The sentence was extreme even in a society that routinely imprisons journalists and practices corporal punishment, and Ashtiani appears to have withdrawn his complaint in light of international attention. Nevertheless, the case represents an unprecedented legal threat to cartoonists already schooled in self-censorship. News of the sentence won Shokraye the solidarity of high-profile colleagues, even as one of them lamented his restraint.
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