(Reuters) – Iran has banned TV programs showing half-naked men and love triangles, the semi-official Fars news agency reported on Monday, in the latest sign of a conservative crackdown on media in the Islamic state.
It was not clear what prompted the ban — Iran TV, which has a monopoly in the country, dedicates large parts of its schedule to religious shows and announcements from the government.
But viewers were gripped a few years ago by a locally-produced soap opera called Forbidden Fruit which told the tale of an old man who decided to leave his wife after falling in love with a young girl.
“Based on a new instruction, the broadcasting of programs that show tempting love triangles is banned,” Fars said.
Exceptions would be made for shows that explicitly condemned such entanglements, it added.
“Showing half-naked men in Iranian and foreign productions is also banned,” the report said, adding that producers were urged not to show “unnecessary mingling” between the sexes.
The statement did not say how the restrictions on partially-clothed men would affect Iran TV’s sports coverage.
Since the 1979 revolution brought strict Islamic law to Iran, TV shows and films have had to comply with religious values by avoiding scenes that show intimate relations between men and women or flout Islamic dress codes for women.
The restrictions have pushed many Iranians to turn to illegal satellite channels for uncensored entertainment and international news.
Iran outlawed satellite dishes in the mid-1990s, saying it wanted to curb what it called Western efforts to corrupt its population through the spread of immoral programs.
The ban was largely ignored under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s predecessor Mohammad Khatami who tried to increase social freedoms after he was elected in 1997.
But hard-liners pressed for renewed restrictions after Ahmadinejad took office in 2005 and Iranian police launched a new crackdown on satellite dishes earlier this year.
Iran’s hardline rulers often accuse the United States and other Western countries of seeking to overthrow clerical rule through a “soft” or “velvet” revolution with the help of intellectuals, websites and satellite channels.
Earlier this year, local media reported Iran had also banned programs showing how to cook western dishes.