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Iran's Judiciary Follows "Scorched Earth" Policy on Newspapers - Mashallah Shamsolvaezin

7/22/04 Source: Radio Farda Newsroom

The judiciary is following a scorched earth policy on newspapers, in order to scare away journalists and force them to either change careers or leave the country, spokesman of the Tehran-based society for defense of press freedoms tells Radio Farda, commenting on the latest wave of crackdown, which hit two newspapers last week. Paris-based commentator Ahmad Salamatian says the judiciary in effect banned the entire staff of a banned newspaper from working elsewhere.

July 21, 2004 - "The judiciary and certain organs associated with it are apparently interested in turning the press and journalism into a 'scorched earth,' in order to scare journalists and force them to either change their jobs or leave the country," spokesman of the Tehran-based society for defense of press freedom Mashallah (Shams) Shamsolvaezin tells Radio Farda's broadcaster Mahmonir Rahimi. In a new wave of crackdown on reformist press, the judiciary last week closed two newspapers, Jomhouriyat and Vaqayeh-e Ettefaqieh, as well as the analytical monthly Aftab. In reaction, the press association (Anjoman-e Senfi Matboo'at), the trade union of reformist newspaper workers, will hold a protest rally in its offices next Monday; and the society for defense of press freedoms issued a statement condemning the judiciary for the closing of newspapers.

"The Tehran prosecutor cited the press law in closing of Vaqayeh-e Etefaqieh, because most of its workers were the same as the banned reformist newspaper Yaas-e Now, Shamsolvaezin says. "This means that the workers of a banned newspaper would have no hope of continuing their profession by finding jobs in other newspapers."

"The judiciary is thus forbidding journalists from pursuing their chosen profession, and that is what 153 newspaper workers condemn in their open letter titled 'We Are Journalists,'" says Shamsolvaezin, former editor of four banned reformist newspapers.

In a "Special Report" on Radio Farda, Shamsolvaezin and Paris-based activist and commentator Ahmad Salamatian discuss the social and political impact of the conservative judiciary's bans on the newspapers of the rival faction.

Before the culture ministry placed a moratorium on issuing publication permits for new newspapers, politicians and activists close to the regime's reformist faction applied for newspaper permits, hoping to replace banned newspapers with new ones. However, as Salamatian points out in his comments on Radio Farda, the closing of Vaqayeh-e Ettefaqieh put an end to this practice, since this time a newspaper was closed because it had hired the staff of a banned newspaper.

The authorities have ignored the fact that the closing of 100 newspapers within three years has created an insecure and unstable environment, not only for the press, but for the political system of the country, Shamsolvaezin says.

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