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The BBC's Iranian affairs analyst Sadeq Saba
"Some moderate reformists have called for a more cautious approach"
 real 28k

Sunday, 18 June, 2000, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Iran MPs demand press freedom
Protests at newspaper closures
Press freedom is central to the reformist agenda
Iran's new reformist parliament has called for urgent changes to restrictive press laws approved by its conservative-dominated predecessor.

Deputies also called on the head of the judiciary to reopen pro-reform newspapers closed in a hardline crackdown in April.

The closure of 18 publications with a circulation of more than one million copies per day can only be likened to closing society's schools

Ahmad Bourqani, a reformist Tehran MP
The motion, passed by a large majority, proposed that parliamentary committees should meet as soon as possible to debate amendments to ease what are seen by many as draconian curbs put on the press by the outgoing parliament.

The press law, passed on 18 April

  • increased punishments for offences by the press
  • gave the conservative-dominated courts more powers to suspend or otherwise sanction newspapers
  • allowed for prosecution of journalists as well as publishers.

Even before the restrictive press legislation was passed, the judiciary had suspended more than a dozen dailies and jailed a number of press chiefs for various offences relating to the content of their publications.

Reformists, who won a huge majority in the February elections, had pledged to overturn the restrictive law in the first weeks of the new parliament, which opened late last month.

Respect for the law

"The closure of 18 publications with a circulation of more than one million copies per day can only be likened to closing society's schools," said Ahmad Bourqani, an MP from Tehran.

Newspaper stand in Tehran
As it was being replaced, the last Iranian parliament pursued a massive press clampdown
Mr Bourqani was the deputy minister of culture for press affairs before being forced out of government because of his liberal policies towards the new independent press.

Shahi Arablou, a member of the conservative minority in the new parliament, said he was against any hasty revision of the press law.

"Some changes to the law could possibly be argued for, but changes must not be made right now, proposals for change should be open to deeper study," Mr Arablou said.

It is the minimum right of suspects to enjoy the protection of the law, but when a part of the judiciary denies the suspects their rights, then to whom can we complain?

Parliamentary letter to the judiciary
Iran's conservative dominated judiciary opposes the policies of moderate President Mohammad Khatami and closed down 18 reformist publications, most of them popular newspapers.

The closures came after supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the independent press "bases of the enemy" in a public speech.

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See also:

16 May 00 | Middle East
Another Iranian paper closed
24 May 00 | Middle East
Iran's hardline parliament bows out
28 Apr 00 | Middle East
Rafsanjani slams Iran's liberal media
29 Apr 00 | Media reports
Clampdown - the cartoonists' eye
26 Apr 00 | Middle East
How far will Iran's conservatives go?
21 Feb 00 | Middle East
Analysis: Obstacles to change
27 May 00 | Middle East
Iran parliament enters new era
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