Ali A. Kia
Radio and television in Iran are owned and run by the government. Also, as stipulated by the Press Law, all print publications operate only under the supervision of the government. Violators under the Press Law will be tried in special courts established for such purpose. Violations include calumny,1 blasphemy, circulating false information, propagating against the ruling body, jeopardising national security and insulting the leader. According to the Press Law enacted on 19 March 1986, “the mission of the press is to enlighten public opinion, advance the objectives of Iran, counteract internal division among citizens, propagate Islamic culture and principles, and reject manifestations of imperialistic culture as well as foreign politics and policies. Publications must not conflict with any of these enumerated goals.” As stipulated by these statutes, all publications need to be licensed by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance and no one may, without a license or anonymously, publish any material. Given the oppressive media environment, has the Internet offered Iranian journalists a way to break free from this political stranglehold? Has the Internet effectively offered Iranian journalists a new tool for research and, therefore, enabled them to report with greater freedom? Or, has journalism in Iran remained the way it was before the Internet became part of every day life among the Iranian people? This paper, which is drawn from interviews with journalists and media executives in Teheran, explains the limitations–and potential–of what is often assumed to be the Internet’s inherent transformative influence and enabler of freer expression in general.
Keywords: Role of Internet, journalism practice, Iran