Iran's two major newspapers ceased publication yesterday to protest imposition of censorship by the government.
Some 4,000 employes of Ettelaat and Kayhan walked out, according to spokesman for the two papers, when Tehran military governor Gholam Ali Ovisi sent two colonels into the newspapers' editorial rooms to censor the entire publications before going to press.
The government of Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi has kept close control on the Iranian press for years and such concerted action against censorship is unprecedented. The spokesman said that the two Persian-language papers, which have circulations of about 250,000 each, had never previously ceased publishing.
Staff members said they refused to show their copy to the officers, who left after spending about an hour at each newspaper. The papers also publish English-language editions but none of them appeared.
The spokesmen for the two papers said the closure would continue untill censorship is lifted.
Government officials refused to comment on thestrike and the government-owned radio merely said the two papers did not appear because of the staff strike.
In another media development, the government agreed to withdraw a press bill attacked by journalists as being aimed at institutionalizing officials press control.
Last week Prime Minister Jaafar Sharif-Emami said the press and broadcasting should be free if they worked responsibly. Since then papers have run daily stories about the continuing wave of strikes for more pay by government workers and about demonstrations in provincial towns and the capital.
There were reports of minor demonstrations in Teheran yesterday with students and police clashing but no reports of casualties.
The journalists' demands could cause friction between Sharif-Emami, named premier during a major political crisis in August, and military authorities enforcing six months of martial law imposed in September after violent clashes between anti-shah demonstrators and troops which killed hundreds.
There have been frequent rumors that the premier would resign.
The wave of strikes by government employes, the first for many years in Iran, posed a serious challenge for a government which already has agreed on staggered, general pay raises of 25 percent to be paid for by cutting arms and other spending.
Several government-run hospitals were hit for the third consecutive day by strikes. Railway workers struck again after an earlier return to work followed a management promise to consider their demands.