Mr Rafsanjani, a former president, powerful cleric and opposition member, has been targeted after he gave a speech in the holy city of Mashhad earlier this month in which he accused Iran’s rulers of being intolerant and had “closed the door on constructive criticism”.
The speech came on the eve of the annual Students Day protests in Tehran and several other cities against the Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who won June’s disputed election.
The state-run IRNA news agency issued the directive telling the agency’s editors to refer to Mr Rafsanjani only as chairman of the Expediency Council rather than his more important role of chairman of the Assembly of Experts. The directive also said he must be referred to with the title of hojjatoleslam instead of ayatollah – the title he has commonly been referred to for nearly two decades and one which signifies a much higher religious status.
Fararu, a moderate conservative news portal, published on Sunday the undated text of the directive signed by the IRNA’s news editor Abdolreza Davar. The directive said the change was “to maintain consistency in referring to Mr Rafsanjani in news articles”.
The IRNA directive has already been put into action in news articles about Mr Rafsanjani that the agency releases.
Neither Mr Rafsanjani nor his office have yet reacted to the directive.
But the order appears to be the latest in a series of moves by hardliners to sideline the former president who backed the moderate Mir Hossein Mousavi in June’s presidential election over his rival Mr Ahmadinejad.
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