Thursday, October 26, 2006

IRAN: Government bans daily
IRAN: "Rouzegar": retour sur un quotidien mort-né
IFEX - News from the international freedom of expression community
26 October 2006
Government bans daily
SOURCE: Reporters sans frontières (RSF), Paris
(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has said it was appalled by the Press Surveillance Commission's decision to ban the pro-reform newspaper "Rouzegar" ("Time"), which had just increased its print run and expressed a desire to cover political issues after being reinforced by an influx of journalists from the banned daily "Shargh".
"The ban on 'Rouzegar' is absurd," the press freedom organisation said. "Not content with censuring newspapers when they are slightly critical, the Iranian government has now established prior control. 'Rouzegar' did not have a chance to upset the regime, but it is viewed as a potential threat, especially at election time."
A social and cultural daily with a small circulation, "Rouzegar" had shifted its editorial line in a pro-reform direction by including journalists from "Shargh" on its staff. After its 16 October 2006 issue included political articles, it was seen as a new moderate publication that could fill the gap left by the banning of "Shargh" in September.
But the culture ministry targeted "Rouzegar" on 18 October 2006, expressly banning it from covering politics on the grounds they did not come under the range of subjects it specified when it originally requested its licence from the Press Surveillance Commission.
"Rouzegar"'s reaction was to provisionally suspend publication the same day. But it reappeared two days later, on 20 October, with an issue that had its political section replaced by general-interest and cultural articles.
Nonetheless, it was finally banned altogether on 23 October. Culture ministry spokesperson Alizera Mokhtapour said the decision was based on article 33 of the press law, which provides for "an immediate ban on the publication of a newspaper that replaces a banned newspaper with a name, logo and format that is similar." In other words, the Iranian authorities saw "Rouzegar" as "Shargh" in disguise.
But it was clearly "Rouzegar"'s new editorial team, rather than its format or logo, that scared the authorities. In this case as in many others, the Press Surveillance Commission and the culture minister usurped the role of the courts in controlling the media. In July 2004, the moderate dailies "Vaghayeh Ettefaghieh" and "Jomhouriat" were shut down in a similar fashion (see IFEX alert of 20 July 2004).
At the time, "Vaghayeh Ettefaghieh" was employing many journalists that had come from the daily "Yas-e No", which had been banned at the start of 2004. The order closing down "Vaghayeh Ettefaghieh" mentioned that fact that most of its editorial staff were from "Yas-e No".
Before closing "Jomhouriat", the authorities unsuccessfully pressured its publisher to fire the editor, Emadoldin Baghi, a figurehead of the Iranian pro-reform press and a keen defender of free expression. The daily was finally shut down on 18 July 2004.
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are on the list of press freedom predators, which Reporters Without Borders compiles each year.
For further information contact Hajar Smouni, RSF, 5, rue Geoffroy Marie, Paris 75009, France, tel: +33 1 44 83 84 84, fax: +33 1 45 23 11 51, e-mail:, Internet:
The information contained in this alert is the sole responsibility of RSF. In citing this material for broadcast or publication, please credit RSF.
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