Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Islamic Republic Bullies Lebanon into censorship via Hizballah

Lebanon bans prize-winning cartoon 'Persepolis'
11 hours ago
BEIRUT (AFP) — The Oscar-nominated film "Persepolis", which has annoyed authorities in Iran for its critical portrayal of the Islamic revolution, has been banned in Lebanon, officials said on Wednesday, sparking an outcry.
General Wafiq Jizzini, the head of the general security department at the interior ministry, told AFP he had approved the ban after Shiite officials expressed concern that its content was offensive to Muslims and to Iran.
"The office that handles censorship matters also informed me in their report that the film attacks Islam and the Iranian regime, and this could spark tension with Iran," Jizzini said.

He added that he had not seen the film and that his decision was not final.
"I can go back on my decision, I respect freedom of expression," he said. "But given the current political crisis in Lebanon, this is not the time to add fuel to the fire."
Lebanon has been mired for more than a year in a deep political crisis pitting the Western-backed government against the Hezbollah-led opposition backed by Iran and Syria.
A government official told AFP earlier that Jizzini had decided to ban 'Persepolis' because of his supposed close ties with Hezbollah.
"It is clear that ... General Wafiq Jizzini is close to Hezbollah and he doesn't want to allow such a movie, which he believes gives an image of Iran as being worse off than it was before the shah," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
Jizzini said Hezbollah had not influenced his decision.
The ban sparked an outcry in many circles, with some saying it smacked of hypocrisy and showed that some within the Lebanese government were kowtowing to Iran.
Culture Minister Tareq Mitri said he saw no reason why the film should be banned and that he had urged the interior ministry to rescind its decision.
Bassam Eid, production manager at Circuit Empire, the company that was to distribute the film, blasted the ban as ridiculous and unwarranted.
"The decision is even more ridiculous when you consider that you can buy for two dollars pirated copies of the film in Hezbollah's stronghold in the southern suburbs of Beirut," Eid told AFP.
"I purchased two copies of the film from the suburbs and from the Sabra and Shatila Palestinian refugee camp and handed one over to the culture minister."
Druze leader Walid Jumblatt, a leading member of the ruling coalition, said he was stunned by "this cultural faux-pas that allows a security service to evaluate artistic and cultural works."
The film, which shows its young heroine's brushes with the authorities in the early days of the Islamic revolution in the 1980s, was screened in Iran last month but is not expected to be shown at mainstream cinemas.
A success in the United States and France, "Persepolis" has been condemned by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's government as Islamophobic and anti-Iranian.
The film, which won the Jury Prize at Cannes and was nominated for an Oscar for best animated film, is based on comic strips by Iranian-French emigre Marjane Satrapi.
Co-directed by Satrapi, it shows repression under the shah but also portrays the social crackdown, arrests and executions that followed the Islamic revolution led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1979.
The heroine's rebellious nature and conflicts with the authorities force her to leave Iran temporarily for Austria and then for France -- this time never to return.

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