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French media watchdog criticises new Iranian law

PARIS, April 19 (Reuters) - Paris-based media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) on Wednesday criticised a new law passed by Iran's conservative outgoing parliament to rein in the country's liberal press.

RSF said it was alarmed at the state of freedom of the press in Iran just two months after elections gave reformers a stronger position in the new parliament.

It said hardliners had stepped up a campaign against the reform-minded press since the beginning of April, taking legal action against some journalists and jailing Mashallah Shamsolvaezin, editor of leading reformist newspaper Neshat.

RSF called on Iran's next parliament, scheduled to convene in late May, to change the law to make it more liberal.

The group also asked the country's courts to put an end to legal proceedings against pro-reform journalists and urged officials to free four imprisoned journalists.

Among the more restrictive parts of the press law approved earlier this week was a measure explicitly allowing hardline revolutionary courts to prosecute press offences.

The new law also bans criticism of the constitution, seen by some in the liberal press as a hurdle to democratic reforms.

It forbids Iranian publications from receiving direct or indirect financial support from foreign governments or other entities, and extends responsibility for press violations to news writers and commentators in addition to a publication's director.

The law must be approved by the conservative-led Guardian Council, which vets parliamentary legislation, before it can take effect.


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