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Iranian editor vows to re-open women's paper

The Canberra Times
September 4, 1999

The editor of a banned Iranian women's daily has told The Canberra Times she hopes to re-open her paper. Faezeh Hashemi, licensee and editor-in chief of Zan (woman" in Farsi), the first women's daily newspaper in her country, was in Canberra yesterday to visit the Australian Institute of Sport and the Australian Sports Commission. She also took a look at how an Australian daily newspaper operates.

Mrs Hashemi is the youngest daughter of the former Iranian president Rafsanjani. An MP in the Government of Iran, she gained the highest number of votes for any of the country's 14 female MPs at the last elections.

She is also Iran's National Olympics Committee vice-president and secretary of the Non Government Organisations Networks for Women.

Mrs Hashemi has long been unpopular with conservative elements in Iran for her espousal of women's sport. She founded the Iranian women's soccer team and is president of the Islamic Countries' Women's Sports Solidarity Council.

In December 1998 she was convicted and fined for a minor press violation, but was - according to the Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Canberra, Gholamali Khoshroo, who sat on the judiciary - acquitted of a further 17 charges.

Mrs Hashemi's notoriety reached new heights in April this year after Zan published a Nourouz (Iranian New Year) message faxed to the paper by ex-empress Farah Diba, now living in the United States.

It was the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 a member of the late Shah's family had been accorded press space and brought about the immediate confiscation of the paper and a charge of "counter revolutionary activity".

In April, Zan incurred the wrath of the conservative clergy for publishing a cartoon satirising the law under which "blood money" paid for a murdered female relative is half that for a male.

Mrs Hashemi told The Canberra Times her paper was just trying to provoke discussion in a modern society. The paper has now been banned from publishing until after the case goes to court.

The outspoken Mrs Hashemi accused the judiciary that suspended the paper of being "absolutely wrong and unfair" and has since joined the moderate Ministry for Culture in demanding that press cases be dealt with in open session and in the presence of a jury.

The ministry, which has provided for greater freedom of the Press and expression since Mr Khatami's election in 1997 admitted "the possibility of making mistakes is unavoidable in journalism" and suggested she apologise.

Instead, Mrs Hashemi said the paper's closure by the revolutionary court was part of a conservative offensive by the justice department against moderates. She is a politician, journalist, newspaper-owner, sports activist and mother, but it was obvious which role had the upper hand in Canberra.

After an inspection of The Canberra Times colour press she visited the newsroom where her main question to editorial staff was: Could the Government prosecute you for press violations in Australia?


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