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Iran Bans Another Newspaper Over Economic Reporting

Tehran Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf
TEHRAN -- Iranian authorities have banned the evening edition of a large circulation newspaper for publishing news they said was harmful to the economy, Iranian media reported.

"Hamshahri" daily, which has a morning and evening edition, is owned by the Tehran municipality, which in turn is run by potential presidential hopeful Mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, a conservative political rival of President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

It is the second daily in just over a month to be banned for economic reporting. Analysts say the economy will be the main battleground in next year's presidential race as the government grapples with surging inflation in OPEC's No. 2 oil producer.

Rising prices are the main gripe for most ordinary Iranians.

"By a decision of the press supervisory board, 'Hamshahri' evening edition has been banned. The reason for banning this publication was the propagation of untruthful news with the aim of creating disruption in the country's economic condition," the official IRNA news agency reported.

The semi-official Fars news agency said "Hamshahri's" evening edition would not be published for three months.

"Hamshahri" reported a row on July 24 between cabinet economic ministers and Central Bank Governor Tahmasb Mazaheri, who have been at odds over interest-rate policy. The governor wants to hike rates but has been opposed by the government.

The daily "Tehran Emrouz," launched about 18 months ago, was banned in June for an article critical of Ahmadinejad's handling of the economy.

Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2005 on a pledge to share Iran's oil wealth more fairly, has come under mounting criticism for not containing inflation, now running at about 26 percent.

Although Iran says it allows free speech, journalists say they have to tread carefully to avoid being closed down.

Since 2000, Iran has closed dozens of publications in recent years, most of them pro-reform newspapers. Many subsequently reopened under different names.