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Kian ban condemned

(New York, January 19, 2001) -- Human Rights Watch today strongly condemned Iran's closure of Kiyan, a ten-year-old independent journal that specialized in issues of philosophy, religion, and literature. Kiyan's closure was announced by state-controlled radio and television on January 17. The international monitoring organization urged the Iranian authorities to lift the closure order immediately and end the government's campaign to suppress independent critical media.

"This closure is the final nail in the coffin for press freedom in Iran," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch.

Many of Iran's leading intellectual and artistic figures contributed to the journal during the decade it published. Kiyan's articles were serious and academic in tone and avoided factional political conflict. The magazine presented diverse interpretations of Islamic law and promoted open debate on religious and philosophical questions.

The summary closure was ordered by Saeed Mortazavi, a judge in Branch 1410 of the Tehran General Court, which deals with press offenses. The order was based on a complaint from Abbasali Alizadeh, the head of the Justice Department in Tehran, in his capacity as general prosecutor. Under Iranian law, only the Press Supervisory Board within the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance can order the closure of newspapers and magazines. The judiciary in this case cited Article 156 (5) of the Constitution, which it claimed empowered it to take "appropriate measures in order to prevent crime." Mortazavi stated that Kiyan had "published lies, disturbed public opinion and insulted sacred religion." The judge further cited Articles 12 and 13 of the Precautionary Measures Law, part of Iranian penal law, which empowers courts to order the seizure of "instruments used for committing crimes."

"This expansion of the scope of penal laws to suppress freedom of expression is bad news for ordinary Iranians who want independent sources of information," Megally said, noting that more than thirty newspapers and magazines have been closed in this manner since April 2000.


For additional information, contact:
Elahe Sharifpour-Hicks, in New York: +1 212 216 1233
Joe Stork, In Washington, DC: +1 202 612 4327


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