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Weekly closed permanently, three of its journalists fined; another newspaper suspended; ban lifted on two publications

(RSF/IFEX) - Reporters Without Borders condemns the 11 April 2008 decision of a criminal court in Sanandaj, in Iran's northwestern Kurdish region, to close the Kurdish-language weekly "Rouji Ha Lat" for good on the grounds that it had received money from abroad. The court took the position that it broke the law by selling copies across the border in the Kurdish part of Iraq.

"It seems that any pretext will do in order to silence independent news media," the press freedom organisation said. "The Iranian judicial system undermines its own credibility each time it hands down such absurd and iniquitous decisions. A total of 18 newspapers have been suspended since the start of the year in Iran, each time for obviously political reasons."

The Sanandaj court ruled that, by selling copies in Iraqi Kurdistan, "Rouji Ha Lat" had acquired an "illegal" foreign source of income since, in Iran, the national news media are not allowed to receive foreign financial assistance.

Three of the newspaper's journalists who had been charged with "activity against national security" - Farhad Aminpour, Reza Alipour and Saman Solimani - were fined 300,000 toumen (approx. 300 euros). They were detained for a month in 2006 before being freed on bail.

Meanwhile on 16 April, a Tehran court ordered the suspension of the newspaper "Rah Ayandeh" in response to a complaint brought by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation's press department. The newspaper's next issue, its ninth, was to have been about Labour Day and the struggle of labour unions in Iran.

Finally, Reporters Without Borders hopes that the weekly "Ashtai" and the daily "Rouzegar" will soon be on sale again following court decisions in the past few days lifting the bans that had been placed on them.

On 3 April, the high court of justice overturned the decision of a Sanandaj court on 3 December 2007 to order the definitive closure of "Ashtai", which had been suspended since August 2005. And on 5 April, a Tehran court rehabilitated "Rouzegar", which was suspended by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation on 20 October 2006 for violating its restricted licence by covering political matters.

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