January 23, 2021
A cleric has accused President Hassan Rouhani of being addicted to opium on state-run television.
Speaking on Zavieh [“Angle”], a program broadcast by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), Institute of Islamic Culture and Thought representative Ahmad Jahanbezorgi said: ”An official who is smoking opium at home will not go anywhere and his ministers will not be able to contact him. Is this responsible?”
He made the comments on January 20, the same day as Joe Biden’s inauguration as United States president, and when many in Iran would be paying close attention to news about their own president and his reactions to world events.
The comment prompted harsh criticism from the office of president, as well as demands for an explanation from the program and its guest. The office warned it would be looking into the matter further.
“What happened during the program on Channel 4 is a shameful scandal,” tweeted Alireza Moezi, the Deputy Minister of Communications and Information based at the president’s office, following the remarks. “It is not a question of freedom of expression because everyone now knows that criticism and protest, no matter what, even by swearing at the president, are not punished at all; Unfortunately, this time it is a matter of profanity and obscenity.”
Moezi also objected to the timing of the remarks.”The IRIB, on the day of Trump’s departure and the inauguration of the president, became a hotbed of slander and insult. This evil is no longer tolerable. It is unfortunate that the narrator of the indecent remarks and the gross accusations is a cleric and the media is the national media.”