News & Views
Iran appeals court upholds order to close liberal paper
TEHRAN, July 23 (AFP) - An Iranian appeals tribunal on Thursday upheld a decision by a press court to close down a liberal newspaper which supports President Mohammad Khatami, the newspaper's director said.
Jameeh's director Hamid-Reza Jalai-Pour told AFP that he had been informed of the decision by the public relations office of the Tehran justice department, but had not been officially notified in writing.
A Tehran press court on June 10 ordered the daily's closure and suspended Jalai-Pour from running publications for a year on charges of "defamatory and untruthful articles" aimed at several regime leaders and which were deemed "contrary to public moral order."
The official IRNA news agency, citing the justice department said, however, that the upper court had reduced Jalai-pour's suspension to two months.
Jameeh (Society), which first rolled off the presses in February, will have to stop publishing effective Saturday.
But the director vowed to 'pursue all legal channels to regain our rights." "We have spent days and nights to run this paper and now they just tell you to stop. It like issuing the order of your execution," he said.
He said a new daily with a different name, Toos, will be published by Jameeh's people starting Saturday. Toos is already being published as a weekly in the northeastern city of Mashhad, and it takes a strong moderate slant in support of Khatami.
Jameeh has been one of the most visible symbols of change in Iran's print media, which has become more diversified and critical since moderate cleric Khatami took over as president last year.
But it has been the target of criticism from Islamic fundamentalists and conservatives, who accused Jameeh of publishing tendentious and sometimes anti-Islamic articles.
Last month more than 200 journalists sent a petition asking Khatami to intervene against the court order for Jameeh's closure.
But a group of senior clerics asked the president on Wednesday to curb budding freedom in Iran, notably in the press.