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Sehaty Foreign Exchange

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Iran moves to ease book, theatre censorship

TEHRAN, June 10 (Reuters) - The Iranian government is preparing to ease censorship of books and theatre, in line with recent changes in the flourishing film industry.

Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Ataollah Mohajerani was quoted on Saturday in the daily Bahar as saying a new bill to lift prior restraint in the book trade has been sent to the cabinet before consideration by parliament.

``We have prepared legislation which will remove censorship prior to publication. We have sent this bill to the cabinet for approval,'' said Mohajerani, the most influential of the pro- reform ministers in President Mohammad Khatami's government.

``We believe that one can only check and oversee books before publication in those countries where less than 1,000 books are published each year. But in Iran last year we published 21,000 new titles. It is impossible to check so many books before publication,'' he said.

Mohajerani, who has been under strong attack by the conservative establishment for his liberal press and arts policies, said his ministry had already abolished the need for film-makers to secure prior approval of their scripts.

He said he was also moving, albeit cautiously, in the same direction for the theatre.

``With regard to theatre, we are also studying new measures so censorship before actual stage production will be removed. But we must be more careful in the case of theatre, because this is a live art and, therefore, more sensitive.''

President Khatami, himself a former minister of culture, has made an independent press and greater freedom of expression central to his broader programme of political and social reform within Iran's Islamic system.


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