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Iran: E’temad denounces suspension of licence of seven publications

Mideast Wire

On March 17, the reformist daily E’temad reported: “Suspension of the licence of Donyaye Tasvir magazine by the Press Monitoring Committee at its best sounds like an April fool joke or a new-years present to the press in the run up to the new year. Yesterday, after the meeting of the members of the Press Monitoring Committee, two contradictory news articles were released, one in Fars News Agency and the other one in the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Fars News Agency reported:

"The publication licences of seven newspapers and magazines have been suspended by the Press Monitoring Committee based on Article 11 of the press law." In a totally different way the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance wrote: "The licences for nine popular cinema magazines have been suspended by the Press Monitoring Committee due to illegal publication of photos of artists, especially those of foreign corrupted actors..." "Suspension of Donyaye Tasvir can only be an April fool's prank," said the managing director of this magazine, Ali Moallem.

“This shows that Donyaye Tasvir's managing director is quite astonished by the news of the suspension of its magazine. Ali Moallem first found out about the news of the closure of his magazine from the website of the Fars News Agency quoting an anonymous source the sudden end to 17 years of publication of Donyaye Tasvir. The managing director of this magazine, Ali Moallem, further expressed his astonishment: "I cannot understand on what charges has the Press Monitoring Committee ruled the closure of Donyaye Tasvir because our track record is quite transparent.

“Donyaye Tasvir is neither a political newspaper nor the yellow pages, our newspaper is merely involved in the cultural arena and suspending this newspaper means killing the voice of cinema. If the current trend of the closure of the press continues in this way we can totally forget about such things as law. Legally, the Press Monitoring Co! mmittee can only suspend the press due to insult to Islam or jeopardiz ing national security."

“There is no doubt that the simultaneous suspension of seven newspapers including Donyaye Tasvir, Haft, Besuye Eftekhar, Talash, Nedai Iran, and Shuka by the Press Monitoring Committee undoubtedly has legal implications. Kambiz Nowruzi, the secretary of the legal committee of the Press Guild Society speaking to E'temad said: "With regards the simultaneous suspension of seven newspapers what makes this measure even more astonishing is the way in which the news of these suspensions was first released.

“The news first appeared on Fars News Agency confirming that based on Article 11 of the press law seven newspapers had been suspended. Then the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance announced the suspension of nine newspapers without any legal evidence." Nowruzi continued: "A similar incident has happened once before and such an approach is first of all not good publicity for the Press Monitoring Committee itself." Kambiz Nowruzi took a leg! al approach to the dual publication of this news on two different websites and explained:

"We cannot have an accurate analysis if we read the news of the suspensions on the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Because on this website this news is released without having any legal basis, however, if we analyze this news based on what was released on Fars News Agency we can understand that the Press Monitoring Committee has limited power based on Article 11 of the press law."

“Nowruzi then went on to explain what the actual Article 11 of the press law means and said: "According to this Article in law, if the licence holder of a certain newspaper or magazine does not abide by the matters mentioned in the Section 9 of the press law then on the discretion of the Press Monitoring Committee the licence of that newspaper or magazine can be suspended. Nevertheless, it is not clear which one of the matters mentioned in Section 9 of the press law has not been adhered to simultaneously by a number of managing directors of the newspapers and magazines which the Press Monitoring Committee has decided to act in this way."

“Nowruzi explained: "Undoubtedly, the reasons referred to in the website of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance for the suspension of these newspapers such as publication of superstitious material, advertising medical products without having relevant licence to do so, publication of materials against public modesty and ! ignoring national interest in the advertisements related to tourism, finance and the bank industry are not matters mentioned in the Article 11 of the press law. Therefore, it is not quite clear what is the reason behind the closure of these newspapers by the Press Monitoring Committee.

“In my opinion the news of the official website of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has a threatening tone and is in a way a warning to the press as a whole in the country." The threatening tone of the Press Monitoring Committee is also a point referred to by Ali Moallem the managing director of Donyaye Tasvir: "I am really disappointed that I have to find out about suspension of my newspaper on Fars website.

“The threatening tone of this news was very extreme and astonishing." Moallem had more to say: "Some individuals, without caring about the readers or people who work in this magazine, have decided to suspend this magazine on the verge of the New Year and I cannot understand why . This is not the right way of dealing with people who work in the cul ture arena. It is not easy to replace the workforce in the cultural arena because in this arena there is neither money nor pride." Nonetheless, Ali Moallem remained optimistic and said: "After the release of this news some cultural officials have contacted me and have expressed hopes that the problem of suspension of this magazine will be rectified.

“I hope that we can be present in a court with a jury so that if there are any charges we can have the time to defend ourselves instead of witnessing that within a moment the Press Monitoring Committee can become a judge and jury and issue a ruling on this matter." In addition, the managing director of Haft, Ahmad Talebi also speaking to E'temad said: "I cannot understand the reason behind the suspension of Haft. We have never received any written or verbal warnings and during the publication of this magazine in the past five years we have never had any suspensions. We have to wait and see if we receive any written letter of suspension so we can then start the process of getting our licence reinstated." - E'temad, Iran

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