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The BBC's Jim Muir in Tehran
"There was a padlock on the gate of one of the newspapers which has been closed down"
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The BBC's Baqer Moin
Conservatives are attacking the independent press before the second round of parliamentary elections
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Monday, 24 April, 2000, 19:17 GMT 20:17 UK
Iran's liberal press muzzled
Final edition of Asr-e-Azadegan
Ghafour Garshasbi, right, director of Asr-e Azadegan
The authorities in Iran have stepped up their campaign against the pro-reform press, closing down 13 newspapers and magazines for allegedly insulting Islam.

The suspended publications include the mass-circulation Fath and Asr-e Azadegan - both at the forefront of Iran's press revolution.

Also banned were the intellectual weekly Aban and the pro-reform dailies Arya and Aftab-e Emrouz.

The Tehran justice department ordered the editors to halt publication immediately.
banned dailies
Final editions of two of the banned dailies

Twelve publications were banned early on Monday, and two more were added to the list late at night.

But the ban on one of the two late additions - Sobh-e-Emruza - was overruled almost immediately by the Tehran judidiary chief.

The BBC correspondent in Iran says this is the latest and most drastic in a series of recent reprisals against reformist publications and journalists.

Announcing the first 12 closures, the justice department said the banned publications had consistently ignored warnings to stop publishing material which "denigrated Islam and the religious elements of the Islamic revolution".

Iran's official news agency, IRNA, reported the department as saying that, "the tone of material in those papers had brought smiles to the faces of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and hurt the feelings of devout Muslims at home and even the leader the Islamic revolution."

Banned publications
Gozaresh-e Ruz
Bamdad-e Now
Aftab-e Emruz
Payam-e Azadi
Asr-e Azadegan
Payam-e Hajar
Akhbar Eqtesad
A copy of the order, made available to journalists, said the ban would remain in effect "until further notice."

Editors immediately denounced the move as unlawful, but said they had little choice but to comply.

A statement by the journalists' union, quoted by the Iranian news agency, denounced the rash of closures for creating a "wave of fear".

It said the press had been targeted because it had become a powerful force in Iranian politics.

The main coalition backing President Khatami issued a call for calm, and there were no immediate reports of any protests of the kind that greeted the closure last July of Salam - then the leading reformist voice.

Journalist jailed

On Sunday, a court sentenced Latif Safari, a prominent reformist journalist, to two-and-a-half years in prison for publishing articles deemed offensive to Islam.

Latif Safari
The court told Latif Safari that his appeal had failed
Mr Safari, publisher of the banned newspaper Neshat, had printed an article questioning capital punishment - challenging the Islamic principle of retribution.

He had first been sentenced late last year, but had been at liberty while appeals were heard.

Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, senior editor on the same newspaper, was jailed earlier this month on a similar sentence.

And on Saturday, leading campaign journalist Akbar Ganji was arrested following complaints brought by right-wing institutions.

Many other reformist figures have either been imprisoned, or face actions in the courts that are generally seen as operating in favour of the conservatives.

The reformists, who won a sweeping victory in a general election in February, plan to change the way the laws work when the new parliament sits at the end of May.

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See also:

23 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iran arrests another journalist
22 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iranian reformist journalist arrested
20 Apr 00 | Middle East
Court summons for Iranian reformists
23 Feb 00 | Middle East
Iran's unique election
22 Feb 00 | Middle East
Reformers promise freedoms
21 Feb 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Obstacles to change
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