Iran approves new measures to rein in press
By Mehrdad Balali
TEHRAN, April 17 (Reuters) - Iran's conservative outgoing parliament
passed new measures on Monday to rein in the liberal press, whose influence
is increasing in the Islamic country. Related satire
The new measures, part of a series of amendments to the press law, came
as Iran's electoral watchdog nullified parliamentary poll results in several
regions, drawing criticism from reformers.
The new rulings ban criticism of the constitution, seen by some in the
liberal press as a hurdle to democratic reforms.
They forbid Iranian publications from receiving ``direct or indirect''
financial support from foreign governments or other entities.
The measures also extend responsibility for press violations to news
writers and commentators, in addition to a publication's director.
The parliament will continue debating additional new measures on Tuesday.
Liberal Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani and several reformist deputies
attacked parts of the bill, including the proposed ban on press challenges
of the constitution.
The constitution, written after the 1979 Islamic revolution, places
immense powers in the hands of the country's supreme clerical leader at
the expense of its elected president.
``This part of the bill closes doors to any criticism of the constitution
and its amendment. We must have an open atmosphere to debate constitutional
provisions,'' the culture minister told parliament.
``I suppose that the next parliament will correct provisions in this
amendment which restrict the rights and freedoms of the press,'' the minister
later told the state news agency IRNA.
But the majority conservatives defended the motion.
``There is a difference between well-intentioned and ill-intentioned
criticism,'' said a rightist deputy. ``We want to prevent the press from
disturbing public opinion.''
Iran's press law already bans publications from running material deemed
offensive to religious principles.
Reformers have accused their conservative rivals of seeking to take
revenge for their poor showing in parliamentary polls.
The elections in February gave reformers a stronger position in the
new parliament, thanks largely to wide press publicity.
Moderates had urged the outgoing assembly to drop the controversial
bill until the next assembly convenes on May 28.
Parliamentary approval of the outline of the bill last summer led to
student unrest and street riots. The assembly in January postponed the
second reading of the bill for three months.