CONSERVATIES SHUT 14 PUBLICATIONS BUT PEOPLE STAYED CALM

TEHRAN 24TH APR. (IPS) In an unprecedented move in the history of the Iranian press, the Islamic Judiciary shut down in the past 24 hours 14 moderate and reformists publications, including ten dailies, three weeklies and one monthly.

Sources at the Judiciary confirmed that the unparalleled decision was taken after Ayatollah Ali Khameneh'i, the embattled leader of the Islamic Republic denounced the reformist press as "base of the enemy".

In quest of proving his power base, the lumpen, illiterate under world that he is in control, Mr. Khameneh'i lashed out at the intellectuals and the elite represented by the vibrant and lively Iranian independent press that has no similarity in the region but in Israel.

The closure of the reformist publications came in three successive waves, during Sunday afternoon, about midnight and on Monday and sources say it is possible that some other titles would fall as well.

In a communiqué published Sunday, the Judiciary parroted the leader, saying the publications it had shut were bases for the enemy and also because they "consistently ignored the previous warnings of Iranian courts to discontinue printing material that disparaged Islam and the religious elements of the Islamic revolution", according to the official news agency IRNA.

Lawyers noted that one of the articles used by the Judiciary to shut down the newspapers was from the time of the Shah and aimed at preventing crimes before it took place, having nothing to do with the press.

"These journals are suspended until further notice to prevent them from committing new offences, from affecting society's opinions and arousing concern among the people," the court said.

The banned papers were accused of having printed "persistently" secular and abusive materials against the basic principles of the Islamic, questioning Islamic values, criticising Islamic revolution, the clergy and the regime's foundations, all that is part of the "cultural assault of the foreign enemies of Iran which they had undertaken with the help of their agents who had infiltrated into the ranks of Iranian journalists".

The closed down publications are Fath, formerly Khordad, Asre Azadegan, formerly Neshat, Toos and Jam'eh, Gozaresh Rouz, the one month old Bamdad No, Aftab Emrouz belonging to the same group as Sobhe Emrouz, Payam azadi, Arya, Azad, known for the famous cartoon of Ayatollah Temsah, Sobhe Emrouz and Akhbar Rouz, Payam Hajar and Arzesh weeklies, Iran Farda bi-weekly and the monthly Aban.

The common denominator of all these publications is that they mostly represents the nationalist-religious forces the conservatives hates the most in the one hand and are not supported by strong political or religious structures on the other.

The Judiciary explained its decision by pointing out that what those papers had published was against the Constitution, the press law and other relevant laws, the interests of the Iranian society and national unity and security".

"The tone of the materials published in those papers had brought smiles on the faces of the enemies of the Islamic Republic and hurt the feelings of devout Muslims at home and even the leader of the Islamic revolution", the communiqué further said.

"Who are the infiltrators? What the reason behind this rampant coup? What is happening that the press must not disclose? Asked Mrs. A'zam Taleqani, the Publisher of Payam Hajar", the weekly that translates the views of the dissident Grand Ayatollah Hosseinali Montazeri who, on orders of Mr. Khameneh'i, lives in house arrest conditions in the city of Qom.

Despite the enormity of the move, reformists remained calm and on their guard.

Analysing Monday the situation created by the closure of the reformist press for the Persian Service of Radio France Internationale, Professor Sadeq Ziba Kalam said this does not mean the end of the Second Khordad (23 May) movement, the democratisation process and the civil society.

"This is a wave following other waves against the reform movement. In the past three years, the conservatives have done all they could to stop this process. At times, they have been able to erect obstacles, but never to stop it and the results from the last Majles elections is the best example of their defeat", observed Mr. Ziba Kalam, an adviser to President Khatami.

Knowing well what the conservatives have in their drawer, meaning the closure of the next Majles (parliament) that is in the control of the reformists, both President Mohammad Khatami and the managers and staff of the banned papers appealed for calm and solidarity

"Iran today, more than ever, needs calm and solidarity to achieve our aims. Today, we need tranquillity, especially at the start of a new Majlis", Mr. Khatami said in a speech marking the Army's Day

He praised the Army because it faces "not our people, but the enemy", a remark that singles out the Revolutionary Guards that intervenes regularly in the side of the conservatives and against the people.

In a statement published in the paper Mosharekat, organ of the Islamic Iran Participation Front (IIPF) headed by Mr. Khatami's brother and among the very few existing moderate newspapers, the management of the banned publications called on the people to preserve their calm and dignity, warning that "No action outside the laws is acceptable."

"We ask the people to keep calm and vigilant against any act by supporters of violence who seek to disturb social calm and security", they pleaded.

The ban of 14 publications followed the imprisonment of the pro-reform journalist Latif Safari, the publisher of Neshat, Akbar Ganji, the well know investigative journalist and Masha'allah Shamsolva'ezin, a leading journalist.

Hard line newspapers, most particularly "Keyhan", the mouthpiece of the Intelligence Ministry hailed the decision of the Judiciary.

Urging the law to aim the heart of the enemy, the paper described the independent press as the "relay stations in Iran for foreign propaganda machine".

Observers speculated that the conservatives next step would be the postpone the inauguration of the Sixth Majles of the Islamic Republic, as the Council of Guardians, the leader-controlled watchdog body that wets the candidates and must approve of their election is busy annulling the result of the first round of the elections that gave more than 200 of the 290 seats of the next chamber to reformists. REFORMIST PAPERS CLOSED 24400