Iran's House of Cinema (IHC) has accused the country's Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance of illegally ordering the independent film-promotion institute to close down. The ministry has given the IHC until January 5 to cease its activities in a move critics say is politically motivated.
Among other transgressions, the House of Cinema upset officials by setting up its own successful annual film festival, which rivals the Fajr International Film Festival organized by the Culture Ministry every year.
The IRNA news agency on January 4 quoted Culture Minister Mohammed Hosseini as saying the organization lacked a legal basis for operations.
Last month, the ministry "accused IHC officials of establishing the guild without legal formalities and other illegal acts," Iranian media reported.
The ministry's complaint was supported by Iran's Public Culture Council, which recently ruled the IHC was illegal.
But as a legally registered nongovernmental institution, the House of Cinema "can only be disbanded by a court ruling or a decision of its general assembly," IHC managing director Mohammad-Mehdi Asgharpur told Nasimonline.ir.
"In the past they used to act through judiciary channels, but in this case -- since the majority of Iran's film industry has proved to be against the government -- the process has taken a different path," Iranian journalist Reza Seddigh, who has also produced documentaries, told RFE/RL's Radio Farda.
"The government is trying to use many different pretexts in order to confront the IHC with minimal damage to its own reputation."
Confronting The Authorities
The IHC was criticized by Iranian officials last year and some lawmakers called for its dismissal after it publicly condemned the arrest of five Iranian filmmakers accused of collaborating with the BBC.
Lawmaker Behrouz Jafari had urged the authorities to revoke the IHC's license, saying the organization "has become more involved in political activities rather than professional ones."
Disagreements between the IHC and the Culture Ministry reportedly began in 2009 after it invited a Hollywood delegation to visit the Islamic republic.
"The Culture Ministry's officials frequently criticized Hollywood as a tool of the U.S. government," wrote the "Tehran Times."
The IHC has also upset the ministry by setting up its own successful annual film festival, which rivals the Fajr International Film Festival organized by the ministry every year.
The IHC was established as the Iranian Alliance of Motion Picture Guilds in 1989.
Written by Farangis Najibullah, based on reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Farda and news agencies
Copyright (c) 2012 RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org
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