Khatami Appeals for Calm after Press Suspensions
Iranian President Mohammad Khatami appealed for "calm and solidarity" Monday, a few hours after Iran's press court suspended publication of eight daily newspapers politically close to the reformist Khatami.
Iran has suspended the publication of eight newspapers and four political magazines close to reformist President Mohammad Khatami "until further notice," the official news agency IRNA reported Monday.
AFP quoted Khatami as saying "Iran today, more than ever, needs calm and solidarity to achieve our aims. Today, we need tranquility, especially at the start of a new Majlis (parliament).
His remarks came during a military parade, commemorating the Iranian army and the 20th anniversary of a failed attempt to free US embassy hostages then held in the eastern city of Tabas.
The president also thanked outgoing deputies, most of them conservatives who suffered a stinging defeat in February's parliamentary elections, which they blamed in part on newspapers that have flourished and become increasingly outspoken since Khatami was elected in 1997, AP said Monday.
The press court late Sunday announced the suspension of two newspapers and a bi-monthly close to the liberal reformist movement.
But on Monday the court decided to muzzle a total of eight dailies, three weeklies and a bi-monthly, all also close to Khatami's government.
AFP said the decision also followed the sentencing to prison of two reformist journalists.
The suspended dailies are Gozarech-a-Rouze, Bamdad-e-Emrouze, Aftab-e-Emrouze, Peyam-e-Azadi, Fath, Arya, Asr-e-Azadeghan and Azad, which are joined by the weeklies Hajar, Aban and Arzech and the bi-monthly Iran-e-Farda.
In a communiqué published by IRNA, the court said it decided to shut down the journals so as to "dispel the worries of the people, of the Guide of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and of the clergy."
It said "enemy elements" had infiltrated the journals where "they formed bases and are attacking the values of the revolution."
The announcement of the suspensions came after Iran imprisoned pro-reform journalist Latif Safari, after the conservative-run press court rejected his appeal against a two-and-a-half-year prison sentence handed down last year, added AP.
Safari, head of Neshat, was whisked off to prison after the hearing, but in a letter handed to reporters he excoriated the court, which had jailed one of his colleagues the previous day.
"I prefer to go to prison and serve an illegal sentence in order to unmask those who incessantly break the law," he wrote.
Safari's colleague, investigative journalist Akbar Ganji, was imprisoned Saturday at a hearing at Tehran's conservative-led press court, where he faced a raft of complaints over his articles in the Sobh-e-Emruz daily.
Supreme leader Khamenei, the traditional guardian of the regime's Islamic values, has issued two ringing denunciations of the press in recent days.
The Revolutionary Guards, a pillar of the regime under Khamenei's direct control, warned recently that newspapers and journalists should be ready for a "blow to the head," while the outgoing conservative parliament last week passed tough new measures against the press- (Agencies)
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