New York, June 28, 2000 — A clerical court in Tehran has ordered the indefinite closure of one of the country’s last remaining pro-reform newspapers, bringing to 20 the number of papers closed by Iranian courts over the past two months.
On Sunday, June 25, Iran’s Special Court for Clergy, a conservative tribunal that operates independently of the regular Iranian court system, ordered the Tehran-based daily Bayan to cease publishing in order to prevent the paper from committing unspecified new “crimes.” The court order did not elaborate on the paper’s alleged old “crimes.”
The ban on Bayan is the latest in a series of closures that the generally conservative Iranian judiciary has imposed on the reformist press, which supports President Muhammad Khatami’s agenda of social and political liberalization.
In late April, judicial authorities ordered the indefinite closure of 16 newspapers and magazines for “continuing to publish articles against the bases of the luminous ordinances of Islam and the religious sanctities of the noble people of Iran and the pillars of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.” Other closures followed over the next few weeks, leaving just a few pro-reform titles publishing.
The crackdown followed an inflammatory April 20 speech by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in which he said: “There are 10 to 15 papers writing as if they were directed from one center, undermining Islamic and revolutionary principles, insulting constitutional bodies and creating tension and discord in society.”
As of today, the banned Iranian publications include: Asr-e-Azadegan, Fat’h, Aftab-e-Emrooz, Arya, Gozaresh-e-Ruz, Bamdad-e-No, Payam-e-Azadi, Azad, Payam-e-Hajar, Aban, Arzesh, Iran-e-Farda, Sobh-e-Emrooz, Akhbar Eqtesad, Mosharaket, Ava, Jebheh (a conservative paper), Ham-Mihan, Mellat, and Bayan.
In a separate development, members of the reformist-dominated Iranian Majles (parliament), which won a resounding victory against conservatives in February’s election, are reportedly speeding up efforts to submit a new draft press law that would replace harsh press legislation passed by the outgoing conservative parliament earlier this year. See CPJ’s April 21 news alert .
The new bill reportedly includes a guarantee that legal proceedings against journalists will be held in regular courts with juries, an end to pre-trial bans against newspapers, and a provision allowing banned publications to re-launch under new titles.