23 مرداد 1392

New media bill imposes tougher penalties on journalists

14 August 2013

Translated by: Mehrdad Safa

Khabarnegaran.info:The draft Comprehensive System of Media Bill, revealed to local media recently, metes out harsher punishments compared with the current press law in force.

The Bill, yet to be finalized, was revealed to media by the Press Supervision Commission, giving media experts a three-week time limit for expressing their suggestions. Iranian Journalists website intends to scrutinize the Bill in a close comparison with the current press law in force, providing the experts analysis on the subject.

The Comprehensive System of Media Bill, according to the fourth development plan law, should have been drafted seven years ago. Instead, it was mentioned in the fifth development plan.

The Bill has been drafted recently by the Government’s Cultural Commission, as the days of Ahmadinejad’s government are coming to an end.

The Bill may be subject to amendments as Hossein Entezami, on behalf of the Supervisory Commission of Press, has asked media experts to offer their opinions.

A major change in the new bill is the elimination of incarceration of journalists. However, the notes to Article 52 of the draft bill stipulates that ‘Crimes against national and foreign security is subject to respective laws and regulations.’ This means that the prevailing trend of imprisonment of journalists will continue to exist, because all of the imprisoned journalists have been charged with committing against national security, though, in reality, they were imprisoned for their writings. Therefore, the new law will fail to guarantee them immunity. The Bill, though named ‘The Comprehensive System of Mass Media’, excludes Iran’s state-owned TV and radio, IRIB, in its Article 7.

The Chapter 7 of the draft bill, titled Violations, Crimes and Punishments, has been subject to fundamental changes. Journalists may be punishable by heavy fines almost as twice as before.

Meanwhile, a special attention has been devoted to the ratifications made by the Supreme National Security Council. A violation of these ratifications carries a penalty six times heavier than the current press law in force.

The Article 61 of the current law states that “in case of violation of ratifications made by the Supreme National Security Council, the court can ban the violating newspaper up to two months and try the case out of turn.”

However, according to the Article 61 of the draft Bill, “in case of violation of ratifications made by the Supreme National Security Council, the court can ban or revoke the license of the violating newspaper up to one year.”

Clearly, not only has the penalty for violation of ratifications made by the Supreme National Security Council been increased from a two months to one year, but the court has been given the authority to revoke the license of the violating newspaper in that case.

The main question is that whether Rouhani’s government will broadly agree on this draft Bill? What will be the stance of Parliament’s Cultural Commission towards this Bill? The Iranian Journalists website aims to shed more light on this subject soon, providing expert analysis.

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