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Saturday, 19 August, 2000, 12:26 GMT 13:26 UK
New Iran newspaper ban
Newspaper kiosk in Tehran
Nearly all the pro-reform press has been shut down
The Iranian authorities have banned an independent weekly publication, the Story of Life (Qesse-ye Zendegi) for, as they put it, pursuing an improper trend.

The managing editor of the publication, Ahmad As'adi, said he had been ordered to retrieve all copies of the latest edition.

It is the latest in a series of independent newspapers to be closed down by conservative-controlled authorities opposed to President Khatami's reform programmes.

It would be ideal if no publication is shut down before going to trial

Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Shaban Shahidi
"Ahmad As'adi was summoned [by the deputy culture and Islamic guidance minister] following the publication of an absurd and immoral article in its 128th edition," the official news agency reported.

It said Iran's domestic press commission had previously issued Mr As'adi with several verbal and written warnings "for pursuing an improper trend".

The agency gave no further explanation.

Power struggle

But in another indication of the power struggle surrounding the press in Iran, the deputy culture minister has called for the re-opening of the banned dailies.

Iranian reformist journalist Ebrahim Nabavi
Award-winning journalist Ebrahim Nabavi has been detained
The Tehran Times newspaper quoted the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance for press affairs, Shaban Shahidi, as saying the re-opening of dailies which had been sufficiently investigated "could help calm down the press atmosphere in the country".

"It would be ideal if no publication is shut down before going to trial, and that no journalist or managing director would be arrested without an open trial in front of a jury," he said.

"Thus far, no evidence has been provided by the courts or information sources indicating that foreign money has been given to the Iranian press," the paper quoted him as saying.

Open letter

A week ago, more than half the deputies in the Iranian parliament signed an open letter pledging to push ahead with their pro-reform agenda.

They were responding to a call by the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for parliament to suspend its efforts to liberalise the country's press laws.

In their letter, MPs warned the conservative establishment that, if the reform movement failed, society would suffer and the whole Islamic system would be in danger.

It came as Iran's conservative press court detained an award-winning political satirist, Ebrahim Nabavi, the latest in a series of arrests of journalists viewed as being pro-reform.

In his latest comments, Mr Shahidi said the arrests were giant blows to the press and had raised concerns among press figures in the country.

On Thursday, the minister attributed a massive drop in national newspaper circulation to the banning of pro-reform newspapers.

He said circulation nationwide had dropped from three to two million.

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See also:

05 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iranian reformer arrested
13 Aug 00 | Middle East
Iranian MPs pledge to continue reform
08 Aug 00 | Media reports
Iranian press back Ayatollah's intervention
24 Apr 00 | Middle East
Iran's liberal press muzzled
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