New parliament to debate press-code reform

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New York, August 4, 2000 — Iranian parliamentarians will debate proposed amendments to the country’s press law when the new Majles (parliament) opens in Tehran on Sunday, according to international news reports.

The current Majles is dominated by reformist delegates who broadly support President Mohammed Khatami’s agenda of social and political liberalization. Sunday’s debate takes place in the context of a sweeping crackdown on the reformist press carried out by conservative elements in the Iranian judiciary. Since January, judicial authorities have ordered the indefinite closure of 21 newspapers and magazines for their allegedly anti-Islamic and anti-regime editorial line, according to CPJ research.

The current press code was passed in March by the outgoing, conservative-dominated Majles. Reformists want to revise the code in order to:

  • Bar courts from demanding lists of newspaper staff members to prevent banned publications from reopening under a new name, which has become standard practice in Iranian journalism since the crackdown began last summer.
  • Remove the judiciary’s current power to close newspapers without a hearing and court order.
  • Remove hard-liners from the press jury and oblige the judge responsible for press issues to respect its rulings.

Meanwhile the repression continues. On July 31, reformist editor Mohammad Reza Zohdi, director of the daily Arya, was sentenced to serve four months in prison for “provoking public opinion, publishing malicious lies, insulting the state, eroding the regime of the Islamic Republic, and printing anti-state propaganda,” according to wire service reports.

Zohdi’s publication license was revoked, and he was also ordered to pay an unspecified fine. That same day, liberal columnist Taqi Rahmani was released on bail after being arrested on charges of insulting hard-line supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in a speech delivered at a university campus. Agence France-Press reported that the Revolutionary Court had ordered Rahmani arrested and jailed in the central Iranian city of Shahr-e-Kord.

Rahmani’s trial begins September 24 in Shahr-e-Kord. If convicted, he faces up to two years in jail.