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Iran considers ending satellite TV ban for cultural "elite"

TEHRAN, March 16 (AFP) - Iran's cultural and political elite may soon be free to have satellite dishes to receive foreign television, Culture Minister Ataollah Mohajerani said in a surprise announcement Tuesday.

He told reporters the government is considering overturning its four-year ban on the devices for "elites" such as artists, professors, journalists and high-ranking public officials.

"I can watch foreign television at work but am forbidden to do so when I go home," Mohajerani said, citing the only current exemption from the ban -- the Islamic republic's government buildings.

The Iranian parliament, dominated by conservatives, banned satellite dishes in 1995 as part of its battle against "the assault of Western culture."

But the prohibition has been ineffective despite the risk of stiff fines and confiscation, and illegal dishes have sprouted from rooftops and balconies of Tehran's wealthier northern neighborhoods in the past few years.

Satellite television has been a frequent point of contention between the regime's conservatives and reformers backing moderate President Mohammad Khatami.

Mohajerani is a reformist close to the president and his wife Jamileh Kadivar was elected to the Tehran municipal council last month, when pro-Khatami candidates swept all 15 seats at stake.


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