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Iran cracks down further on satellite dishes, newspapers

By staff


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Iran has launched a new crackdown on personal use of satellite dishes, has banned another provincial weekly and has started judicial proceedings against the managing editor of a Persian daily.

According to a story in yesterday's Iran News, Tehran police "removed a total of 1,000 antennae within the first 48 hours of their mission'" The newspaper said 95% of individuals approached "voluntarily surrendered their satellite dishes but in 5% of the cases ... the police were forced to produce a court order."

Iranian Defense Minister Ali Shamkhani was quoted by Reuters as saying, "Bankrupt elements abroad are trying to use the satellite network to launch a political challenge. This shows that we have failed to seriously confront cultural threats."

However, a member of Parliament's Foreign Policy and National Security Commission yesterday told Iran News that he disagreed with confiscating satellite dishes.

Mohammd Reza Saidee, a deputy from Tehran, said: "We live in the age of information. It does not make sense in this day and age to block information, because ultimately citizens, using various means and methods, will gain access to the information they seek. Trying to negate information is like shooting an arrow in the dark."

"We have a law against the use of satellite dishes and the police are duty-bound to implement it," a police spokesman said. "First, we will serve them a written notice. If they do not hand them over, they will be arrested."

Iran outlawed satellite dishes in the mid-1990s as part of efforts to curb the inroads of "decadent" Western culture. But the ban has largely been ignored since the 1997 election of President Seyed Mohammad Khatami, who has struggled to introduce cultural and political reforms.

In protesting the confiscation of the satellite dishes, the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières noted: "Satellite dishes are, along with radios, one of the rare means for Iranians to have access to foreign information. Once again, the Iranian government will stop at nothing to restrict the right to receive information."

RSF said the law banning dishes is not respected, that Iranians hide their dishes with tarpaulins or disguise them in air conditioning units, and that since March, more than 7,000 satellite dishes have been confiscated in Tehran.

Meanwhile, a court in the northwestern Iranian city of Zanjan has banned a weekly from publication for publishing stories deemed defamatory to top officials and the Islamic Republic, and sentenced its editor to a suspended jail term, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported today.

The court initially had sentenced Ja'far Karami, managing director of the weekly Amin-Zanjan (Zanjan trustee), to 91 days in jail, but then suspended imprisonment for two years because Karami is war disabled. He also was charged with "creating schism among people's ranks" and trying to pit them against each other. Karami was given 20 days to appeal.

In Tehran, the managing editor of the Persian daily Siasat-Rooz, Ali Yousef-Pour, appeared in court yesterday to hear 25 charges against the newspaper, according to IRNA.

Political figures and officials of government agencies explained their complaints against Yousef-Pour, accusing him of attempting to defame them by printing libel against them in the newspaper. Most of the plaintiffs are officials working with government organizations and prominent figures from the reform camp, IRNA noted. The court hearing was adjourned to next week.


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