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Iran's Culture Minister Questioned In Parliament

Ali Jannati, minister of culture and Islamic guidance
Culture Minister Ali Jannati has been questioned in the Iranian parliament by a hard-line lawmaker over some of his comments regarding the closure of newspapers and the solo singing of women.

Hamid Rasayi accused Jannati of showing tolerance toward the insulting of religious sanctities and promoting laxness over religious principles.

Rasayi said Jannati had defended the solo singing of women and expressed regret over the closure of the daily "Bahar."

Jannati said he believed some cases of solo singing by women, including lullabies, are permissible.

Female singers have been banned from performing solo in public following Iran's 1979 revolution and the establishment of the Islamic republic. Jannati was quoted in October as saying that if the singing did not lead to corruption, it was admissible.

Before parliament on January 7, Jannati also said he believed that the authorities should not quickly move toward the banning of newspapers.

"I expressed regret over the banning of the daily 'Bahar' because I think we shouldn't move toward suspending newspapers. There are other punitive measures including issuing oral warnings, written warnings, sending the case to court, and finally the suspension and the cancellation of the newspaper's license," he was quoted as saying by Iranian news agencies.

The reformist "Bahar" was the first newspaper to be shut down since moderate President Hassan Rohani came to power, leading to renewed concerns over press freedom in the Islamic republic. The daily was closed over an article deemed insulting to religious texts.

Jannati said on January 7 that he understood the concerns of Rasayi and others about preserving religious values. He said his ministry did its best to protect Islamic principles.

"We will definitely not allow insult against the sanctities of the establishment and religion in the press area, "Jannati said.

Some 105 out of the 224 lawmakers present in parliament said in a vote that they were not convinced by Jannati's explanations.

Last month, Jannati called for the easing of restrictions on web access. He said Iranians should be allowed to access social-networking sites including Facebook, which is filtered in Iran.

He has also criticized the banning of some satellite channels.

With reporting by IRNA and ISNA
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