INTRO: Iran's conservative-run press court has closed
at least three pro-reform and liberal newspapers - as
part of a growing crackdown on growing media freedoms
under reformist President Mohamad Khatami. And a
second prominent journalist has been imprisoned since
Saturday. Dale Gavlak reports.
TEXT: Iranian editors called the court order unlawful
but say they may simply have to comply with it.
Administrators at the mass-circulation dailies (Asr-e
Aza-degan and Fath) say the press court ordered them
to cease publication immediately. A biweekly paper
(Iran-e Farda) was also banned.
Tehran's top religious leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
said elements of Iran's press had been turned into
what he called "bases of the enemy."
The press court has also jailed a second journalist
Sunday, refusing Latif Safari's appeal of ahis two-
and-a-half year prison term. /// OPT /// Mr. Safari
said he would rather go to prison and serve an illegal
sentence in order to unmask those who incessantly
break the law." /// END OPT /// He was sentenced last
year on charges of insulting Islam.
Saturday the court detained investigative journalist
,Akbar Ganji, who published articles suggesting a link
between former Iranian president, Akbar Hashemi
Rafsanjani, to the 1998 murders of several
intellectuals and opposition leaders.
The crackdown was not wholly unexpected. The
ayatollah's conservative Revolutionary Guards had
recently warned journalists to be ready for they
called a "blow to the head." And last week, the
outgoing conservative parliament passed tough new
measures against the media.
Hardliners partly blame the pro-Khatami press for
their stinging parliamentary defeat in February.
Newspapers have flourished since Khatami was elected
in a landslide victory 3 years ago.
In an unusually direct move, President Mohamed Khatami
hit back at the hard-liners opponents, saying
opponents of reform and press liberalization are
pushing Iranian society toward ruin and creating the
grounds for dictatorship." (signed)
23-Apr-2000 14:11 PM EDT (23-Apr-2000 1811 UTC)
Source: Voice of America
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