05/12/2007, 00.00
IRAN
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Muslim prayer scenes on fiction TV a must

Iranian state television programs must include prayer scenes or else they will not be broadcast. The decision taken by the head of the country’s state television was made public on Monday.

Teheran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Prayer scenes must be included in programs screened on Iranian state television. The decision, taken by the conservative head of state television, was issued on Monday by the ILNA news agency. "Television productions that do not have prayer scenes will not be allowed to air," said Ezatollah Zarghami.

The new directive appears to be aimed at soap operas and films, but it is not clear whether game shows and sitcoms will be affected. Referring to a scene of a famous Iranian series, in which a man who is suspected of murder prays, Zarghami said: "Prayer scenes should not be confined to positive and leading characters, the elderly, and the clean-living types” but also to bad and negative elements.

In Iran, the state controls all radio and television channels. In general, programming is very conservative, even if over the last two years, under the management of Zarghami, there has been some relaxing of the rules. For example, Iranian television transmits Hollywood films and programmes now. There is down to a bid to make Iranian programs more appealing to compete with satellite television channels, which are banned in Iran but watched by many Iranians who are after information that has not been filtered.

The formal role played by religion remains a dominant one. Programming is interrupted for the broadcast of the daily prayers, newsreaders invoke God before each bulletin, and there are frequent readings from the Koran. Children's programs are also obliged to seek to teach the young about the importance of praying. This is one of the five pillars of Islam, which Muslims are required to perform five times a day.

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