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Conservative daily banned; journalist freed on bail; another acquitted

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders has condemned the closure of the conservative daily "Siassat Rouz" since 3 February 2007 on the orders of the Press Monitoring Commission because of an article deemed to be an insult to Iran's Sunni minority.

"There was no justification for closing this newspaper," the press freedom organisation said, calling for the immediate lifting of the ban. "In Iran, censorship is regarded as a normal method for managing the press, but each time the courts convict a journalist or the authorities decide to close a newspaper for no good reason, it is the public arena that is being restricted."

The Press Monitoring Commission's grounds for ordering the closure of "Siassat Rouz" (Farsi for "Politics Today") on 3 February was an article regarded as an "insult to Sunni Muslims." Reuters said the article, published on 1 February, gave the impression that the newspaper criticised the second caliphate of Omar Ibn al-Khattab. "Siassat Rouz"'s management published an apology the next day, blaming a typographical error.

In a separate case, journalist Shirko Jahani was freed on 3 February after paying bail of 50 million rials (4,200 euros). Reporters Without Borders has been told he was mistreated during the more than two months he spent in detention. He still faces prosecution for writing critical articles that were published in foreign media.

The Tehran revolutionary court meanwhile acquitted journalist Jila Baniyaghoob on 4 February. She had been accused of "acting against national security" and "participating in an illegal demonstration" for covering a demonstration on 12 June 2006 by several thousand women to demand changes in the laws that affect them.

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