Judiciary suspends weekly newspaper; 21st pro-reform publication banned this year

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New York, July 25, 2000 — The reformist weekly Gunagoun was suspended by Branch 1410 of Tehran’s Public Court yesterday, bringing the total number of newspapers banned since January to 21.

According to the state news agency IRNA, the closure came a day after the court summoned Gunagoun‘s editor-in-chief, Fatemeh Farahmandpour, to answer charges of “insulting the regime’s officials, anti-Islamic propaganda, and the dissemination of false news.”

Yesterday, judicial authorities sealed the building that houses Gunagoun’s offices. According to IRNA, the authorities arrived in the afternoon and ordered the occupants of the building to leave immediately.

The court decision charged that Gunagoun closely resembles the suspended pro-reform papers Jame-e, Tous, Neshat, and Asre-Azadegan. Under harsh press laws passed on April 18 by the previous, conservative-dominated parliament (Majles), suspended newspapers may not reappear under a new name, a practice that has become common in Iran over the past year, since the generally conservative judiciary began targeting newspapers that support President Mohammad Khatami’s program of social and political reform.

Since January, judicial authorities have ordered the indefinite closure of 21 newspapers and magazines for their allegedly anti-Islamic and anti-regime editorial tone. Just last month, AFP reported, judicial chief Ayatollah Mahmud Hashemi-Shahrudi rejected calls from the newly elected, reformist-dominated Majles to stop shutting down newspapers, telling the deputies that Iran’s judiciary was independent.