03/17/2008, 00.00
IRAN
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Following the victory of the conservatives, nine Iranian magazines shut down

The closure of nine society and lifestyle magazines distresses the 70 staff members who are now unemployed. The order, issued by the culture minister, is aimed at defending Iranian society against spreading moral corruption.

Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The conservatives in power, fresh from their expected and planned victory on Friday, are not swerving from their intentions.  Yesterday the minister of culture ordered the closure of nine society and lifestyle magazines, and put another 13 on notice.

The reasons that led to the issuing of the order are not entirely clear.  The magazines, in fact, do not deal with dangerous political topics, but are dedicated to stories about lifestyle, family advice, and gossip on international celebrities.  Their pages also contain photographs of Iranian actresses in loose headscarves and stylish dress, images that for the most part are tolerated even by the state media.

But according to the Press Supervisory Board, the censorship is due precisely to the publication of photographs and stories of corrupt movie stars, which risk spreading "superstitious" attitudes.  According to the minister, "the images of these artists - especially foreign film stars, who are by definition corrupt - are designed to arouse 'desire', and the details of their decadent private lives lead to superstition".   Carefully avoiding any further explanations, the minister's decision has left the magazine staff empty-handed and disappointed.

Mohsen Ahmadi, the director of one of the unfortunate magazines, Morning of Life, has bitterly criticised the move.  In an interview with the Associated Press, he said: "It is deplorable that a family lifestyle magazine is ordered closed. It means 70 people have lost their job".

The ordinance, released yesterday, bore the date of March 10. Ahmadi suspects, in fact, that the authorities intentionally waited for the end of the March 14 elections in order to avoid angry reactions and dissent, which might have disrupted voter turnout.

The media in Iran are under the restrictions of the ultraconservatives, and the only authorised outlets are those of the state.  The latest wave of censorship that caused the closing of various newspapers goes back to the presidency of the reformist Mohammad Khatami, who was able to make room for a relatively free press, but which was then immediately suppressed after the harsh confrontation between reformists and conservatives.

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