TEHRAN, 19 May (IPS) Relations between the press and the Parliament further deteriorated as for the second time since its inauguration last February 2005, the Iranian press has erupted against the conservatives-controlled Majles, with parliament correspondents menacing to stop reporting Majles' news.
The new row between the press and the parliament started after on Tuesday 17 May 2005, an influent member of the House, namely Mr. Mehdi Kouchekzadeh of Tehran, attacked the correspondent of the independent “Sharq” daily, accusing him of “deliberate dissemination of lies with the aim of destroying him and some other members of the Abadgaran (Developers) faction”.
After taking the journalist by the chin and dragging him in the corridor, Mr. Kouchekzadeh then insulted him with the most vulgar words
“After taking the journalist by the chin and dragging him in the corridor, Mr. Kouchekzadeh then insulted him with the most vulgar words”, the press reported on Wednesday, calling on the Speaker, Mr. Qolam’ali Haddad Adel to invite his troops to order.
What has angered more the press is that Mr. Kouchekzadeh is a member of the Article 90 Committee of the Majles, the very one that deals with human rights, in charge of protecting people’s rights against abuses by the regime’s powers.
About 2 months ago, the Board of the Majles barred Ms. Masih Ali Nezhad, a correspondent for the pro-reform daily “Hambastegi” and the Labourers news agency ILNA after she had revealed year’s end pocket money and other advantages lawmakers had received, amounting to billions of Rials (thousands of US Dollars).
The revelations had astonished the public, mostly because the new members of the Majles, the majority of them conservatives and coming from the lower class of the society, had pledged to live humble, refusing any gratuities and “friendly” financial help from different foundations.
However, ignoring all the protests and uproars from both the press and the public, The Parliament, instead of reinstating Ms. Ali Nezhad, suspended her press card definitively, accusing the journalist of “lack of politeness and decency”, failing to explain how she had failed in observing the House’s decency rules.
“In case insults and physical attacks from the lawmakers to correspondents continues at the Majles, the press would boycott parliamentary news for an unlimited period of time”, warned Mr. Masha’allah Shamsolva’ezin, the spokesman for the Association for the Defence of Press Freedom, in reaction to the last case of clashes between conservative lawmakers and journalists.
“This is not the first time that journalists are subject to insults and physical attacks by officials in official place and what is more unfortunate is the silence of the Board of the Majles, particularly the Speaker”, he told the official news agency IRNA, describing this latest case of dispute between the Majles and the press as “utterly intolerable and inadmissible”.
As the Association of Professional Journalists protested to the Board of the Majles, urging an immediate investigation and apology from the aggressive lawmaker, the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry, while condemning the assault of the lawmaker on the newsman, also regretted the incident, observing that under existing laws, “journalists have not their proper place in the society and are not protected as they should be”.
This is not the first time that journalists are subject to insults and physical attacks by officials
In their letter to Majles Speaker, several chief and senior editors of newspapers, weeklies and news agencies, observing that all the Majles correspondents present during the clash have confirmed both the physical attack and verbal abuses and insults of Mr. Kouchekzadeh against the correspondent of Sharq said the press in its entirety would not accept such kind of incidents be repeated.
After a short period of relatively freedom at the beginning of President Mohammad Khatami’s first mandate, Iranian independent and pro-reform press was ruthlessly decapitated. On the orders of Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the leader of the Islamic Republic, “awarded” by the Paris-based press watchdog Reporter Sans Frontieres (Reporters Without Borders) as “one of the world’s most dangerous predators of press freedom”, more than 120 titles, including dailies, weeklies and monthlies were shut down, hundreds of journalists became unemployed and dozens of them jailed, silenced or left Iran. ENDS PRESS MAJLES 19505