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Iran's reformers aim for free press, expression

TEHRAN, June 6 (Reuters) - Iran's biggest reformist faction, estimating its strength in the new parliament at roughly half the 290 seats, has pledged to push back the boundaries of free expression in the Islamic Republic.

Mohsen Mirdomadi, a prominent member of the Islamic Iran Participation Front, was quoted on Tuesday as saying the group would take aim at a restrictive press law passed in the waning days of the old, conservative-led parliament.

He said the Front was also keen to break the conservative hold over the state broadcast monopoly.

``I think a serious debate on the press and freedom of expression is high on the agenda of the new parliament,'' Mirdomadi told the pro-reform daily Bahar.

``In fields like the press, where a new law has been passed, the sixth parliament should go back and rectify legislation passed by the fifth parliament.''

The revised press law strengthened the hand of the conservative judiciary and Friday prayer leaders to control the independent media, a move that left the reformist press vulnerable to political pressures.

In April, hardline judges closed 17 pro-reform publications without trial. None has so far been allowed to reopen.

Mirdomadi, a former student radical, said the Front had recognised about 150 MPs as members -- an effective majority -- although it could not necessarily count on mustering that many votes on key bills.

``Those who have been accepted into the Participation faction and will take part in its meetings number about 150 people,'' he said, adding another 50 or so MPs also held pro-reform views.

This legislative strength, he said, would allow the movement to take on the state television and broadcast service, until now guarded jealously by the conservative establishment.

Last week, the Front failed to contest actively the race for parliamentary speaker, leaving the door open to a veteran revolutionary cleric to claim the top spot.


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