APPEALS COURT CONFIRMS NEWSPAPER CLOSUREEditor sentenced to six months in prison

New York, July 24, 2002—The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) strongly condemns the decision announced today by a Tehran appeals court confirming the banning of Norooz, Iran’s main reformist daily, and the six-month jail sentence handed down to the paper’s editor, Mohsen Mirdamadi.

According to press reports and CPJ sources in Tehran, an appeals court confirmed a May 8 decision by Tehran’s press court to suspend the paper for six months and to imprison Mirdamadi for six months and ban him from practicing journalism for four years.

“We condemn this flagrant act of censorship,” said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper. “With repeated newspaper closures and jail sentences for journalists, Iranian courts are showing a complete disregard for even the most basic standards of press freedom.”

Mirdamadi was found guilty of insulting the state, publishing lies, and insulting Islamic institutions in articles that his paper had published. The court ordered him to pay a 2 million riyal (US$250) fine.

The appeals court decision means that the paper will not be on newsstands tomorrow. But a CPJ source in Tehran said that it is doubtful that Mirdamadi, who is also a member of parliament, will go to prison.

The closure comes days after the Participation Front, Iran’s largest reform party, of which Mirdamadi is a member, held a party conference. The final statement of the conference said that Iran must stand behind democratization and reform and must support elected government officials over appointed officials. Norooz is seen as a voice of the Participation Front party.

According to CPJ research, 50 Iranian publications have been closed since a crackdown on the press began in April 2000. At least three Iranian journalists are currently imprisoned for their work.