Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ahmad Masjed Jamei, in a letter to the chief of the Supreme National Security Council, President Mohammad Khatami, said that the closure of two dailies on the eve of the latest parliamentary election contravenes basic principles of the Islamic system, IRNA reported from Tehran.
In his letter to the president, he referred to reports announcing the closure of the two dailies -- Yas-e Nou and Sharq-- at midnight of Wednesday, February 18, reportedly on the order of judiciary officials.
On Friday, February 22, another daily, Nasim Saba, was also ordered suspended from publication effective the following day by the judicial officials.
The suspension order was later withdrawn on the condition the paper was not to publish a certain photo and articles in its pages, Masjed Jamei's letter further said.
The minister noted with regret that the suspension orders were issued when conditions in the press had already been improving due to a more favorable stance taken by superior authorities, judiciary officials and the Press Monitoring Board resulting in only one daily being closed down in one year after legal procedures were carefully observed.
He said he regretted the unexpected closing of the two dailies on the eve of crucial elections when the Islamic Republic of Iran was the center of world attention.
The minister cautioned that such measures taken in light of present conditions may create the false impression that the fundamental principles espoused by the system guaranteeing freedom of the press and observance of laws in dealing with their mistakes as basic components of religious democracy were being abandoned.
Masjed Jamei said the closing down of the two dailies after they published parts of a letter to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei gave rise to doubts that the papers had violated the regulations set by the Supreme National Security Council.
The editorial office of Sharq was shut down Wednesday night. At about 11 p.m. a number of officers from the Prosecutor General's Office arrived at Sharq's central bureau and told its editors to desist from publication until further notice.
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