Iran Mps Uphold Press Bill, Set Showdown with Conservatives
Iran's reform-majority parliament on Sunday upheld a bill it passed last week to ease curbs on the press which had been overruled by a powerful conservative oversight body, state radio reported.
The move sets up a showdown with the conservative-led Guardians Council, which said the measure -- allowing papers to change from weekly to daily or regional to national publication without prior approval from police -- contradicted Islamic law.
If the Council again overrules the bill, the matter will be referred to the Expediency Council headed by former president Akbar Hashemi-Rafsanjani, which arbitrates in disputes between parliament and the council.
Reformists condemned the Guardians' ruling after MPs passed the measure to close the "change-of-status" loophole used by the courts in a press crackdown that has shuttered more than 25 papers and journals since April.
The bill would allow papers to change their status without the need of a new police investigation into newspapers' managements. The move had been backed by the interior ministry, which issues press licenses.
But the Council said the bill was against Islamic law and cited supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who in August blocked parliament from debating a bill to roll back other press restrictions.
The judiciary has also insisted that a new investigation into press chiefs is required each time a publication changes its frequency of appearance.
Reformists have charged that the muzzling of the press is part of a wider campaign aimed at hampering the election prospects of President Mohammad Khatami, who is running for a second term next year -- TEHRAN (AFP)
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