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Iran: Paper slams government’s strict approach to media

BBC Monitoring

Text of unattributed editorial from the ?rubric' column headlined: An unchangeable conviction published by Iranian newspaper E'temad-e Melli on 18 October

Another characteristic must be added to the many different ones which the ninth government already possesses; this being that unlike the previous government which was never placed in a position of complaint against the media and the newspapers and did not show any stimulus for limiting the media environment, this government is particularly active and vigorous in this field.

During the Reformist period, Majlis [parliament] and government were always seriously trying to remove obstacles and limitations from media-related work and sometimes this particular sensitivity went so far as to challenge the Judiciary which at the time, for whatever reason, had another stance. During this period however, not only the Judiciary does not insist on standing against the media, sometimes it even displays sympathetic cooperation towards offering relief to a newspaper or publication which has been closed down; the type of cooperation which even if it does not result in a positi! ve outcome for the publication, at least helps in reducing the worries of the publication's owners.

The exploration of the point of how far the different attitude and approach adopted by the Judiciary reveal the change of convictions and the existing outlooks by this organization towards the media demands another opportunity but maybe it can be said that the politicians' attitude towards the media has been sufficiently repellent for the other organizations not to have had the need to deal with the media. The harsh behaviour by the supervisory committee in charge of the media, under the direction of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has been so serious in the recent period that in addition to limitations concerning applications for issuing new permits for publications, especially for newspapers, and also disciplinary treatment of the media, has spilled over into the domain of electronic publications and websites; behaviour which has resulted in protests by t! he Islamic Majlis representatives and the latter calling the Culture M inister to account.

Saffar-Harandi, the Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister went to the Majlis Cultural Committee to answer questions from representatives concerning the closure and blockade of electronic newspapers and publications such as the Labour News Agency (ILNA), the Entekhab and Baztab websites and newspapers such as Ham-mihan and ... [ellipses as published] at a time when in addition to the representatives considering the reasons for such treatment of the media to be illegal, they were also complaining about the Ministry of Culture's conduct towards internet websites. The Ministry of Culture and the custodian organizations used the approval by the Supreme Cultural Revolution Council in dealing with some of the media at a time when many legal experts believe that this approval has a policy making aspect and must never be used as legal leverage for elimination treatment. In any case, the honoured Majlis representatives were not convinced by Mr Saffar-Harandi'! s explanations and their questions have been referred to the open session of Majlis for proposal.

But the point which must not remain neglected here is the ninth government's attitude towards the media. During the two year lifetime of this government, whilst all powerful and comprehensive media and propaganda organizations such as the Islamic Republic Broadcasting and the big newspapers enjoying government facilities, have been exclusively occupied with promoting the beliefs of the government and broadcasting reports of the country's situation and circumstances, about a number of which there were and still are some doubts, many politicians have spoken and are speaking as if an organized conspiracy exists amongst a few critical newspapers, the circulation and coverage of which can in no way be compared with that of the media under the control of the government, to put spokes in all the four wheels of the government's speedy movement along the course of upheaval! Claims! of media coup d'etats and accusing the critics of being coup d'etat s upporters is one of those exclusive characteristics which will forever remain in the performance report of the ninth government!

When such an approach and belief exist and circulate in the heart and soul of the respected government, maybe the questioning representatives will never receive a convincing response from the culture minister, because nobody will be able to change the convictions of those individuals with this type of belief who thus reprove and address the small number of critical media. But we do hope to observe that interference by the respected Majlis will at least reduce the scope of the limitations and prevent some honourable politicians from thinking out loud and verbally expressing their belief towards the critics and then issuing a punishment order based on the same pre-determined conviction and perception.

Source: E'temad-e Melli, Tehran, in Persian 18 Oct 07



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