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Iran Threatens to Shut Down 17 More Newspapers

Iran's top press official is warning the editors and publishers of 17 newspapers they will be shut down if they do not conform to government regulations. Two reformist papers were shut down last month and dozens of opposition journalists have been arrested since a disputed presidential election in June.

Iranian state TV and official news agencies are reporting the head of the country's Islamic media watchdog, Mohammed Ali Ramin, has warned editors and journalists from 17 publications to conform to media regulations or face closure.

The official Mehr news agency says he told them their publications were guilty of a "lack of commitment to journalistic obligations, non-conformity with media rules, publication of frivolous content and promoting materialism."

Reza Moini of Paris-based Reporters Without Borders says Ramin brought the journalists to his office late Monday to complain about the "un-Islamic tenor" of their publications and threatened them with closure.

Moini says Ramin is a close friend of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and alleges he has ties with neo-Nazis in Germany, where he studied. Moini adds that Ramin organized a conference critical of the Holocaust in Tehran, last year. Ramin, he points out, considers it his mission to liquidate what he considers counter-revolutionary publications.

Moini says according to his sources, Ramin gave the editors of the 17 publications "two or three weeks to change the content and tenor of their papers or face closure." Moini said one of the threatened papers is not even political, it is a soccer newspaper.

Publications now being threatened with closure include Nasl Emrouz, Banu Shargi, Ayne Zendegi, Payamavar, Sepidar, Pishkan, Zendegi Irani, Medad Rangi, Zendegi Edeal, Ruiesh, Kohenoor, Towhid, Rahe Zendegi, Sinamaye Emrouz, Chelcheragh, and Football.

Many opposition and reformist dailies have been shut down since President Ahmedinejad came to power in 2005. Those closures picked up pace after his disputed re-election, last June.

Scores of Iranian journalists have been arrested in recent weeks, and many are still being detained. A few have reportedly been released on bail according to Reza Moini.

He says a number of journalists have been released, mostly on bail, while still others have been arrested in recent days.

Well-known Iranian journalists Bahman Ahmadi Amoui and Saeed Leylaz have had their prison sentences reduced, but both remain imprisoned. Amoui's wife, who is also a journalist, wrote him an open letter, which appeared on opposition websites, praising him for not renouncing his ideals, during prison interrogations.