Khamenei squashes move to ease curbs on press

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday abruptly ended a bid by parliament to ease restrictions on the press - one of the pro-reform majority's central campaign promises.

Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday abruptly ended a bid by parliament to ease restrictions on the press - one of the pro-reform majority's central campaign promises.

Deputies had scheduled a debate and vote on amendments to a draconian press law passed in the last days of the outgoing, conservative legislature. Passage was virtually assured.

But the last-minute intervention of Ayatollah Khamenei, who has the final say in important matters of state, forced an indefinite suspension of the matter amid shouted protests and scuffles on the floor of the chamber.

"If the enemies infiltrate our press, this will be a big danger to the country's security and the people's religious beliefs. I do not deem it right to keep silent," the leader said in a letter to parliament. "The present press law has succeeded to a point to prevent this big plague. The [proposed] Bill is not legitimate and in the interests of the system and the revolution."

Pro-reform deputies used the start of the open session to force the leadership to read the letter into the public record, something almost unthinkable in the past.

The speaker, Mehdi Karroubi, said deputies had no choice but to submit to Ayatollah Khamenei's will. "Our constitution has the elements of the absolute rule of the supreme clerical leader and you all know this and approve of this. We are all duty-bound to abide by it."

A number of reformist deputies briefly left the hall in protest that the decision was not put to a vote. "The presiding board made the decision out of the blue, regardless of parliament's by-laws," said Ali Tajernia, a deputy from the northeast province of Mashhad. "The decision to postpone the motion should have been put to a vote."

The decision provoked a storm of criticism on the floor, forcing the speaker to turn off the microphones and to repeatedly demand order. Rival deputies pushed and shoved each other and two MPs traded kicks and punches. Reuters

Comments