28 مرداد 1391

Censorship becomes more suffocating, economy new target

New redlines for newspapers in Iran

18 August 2012

Reported by Sara Mohseni

Translated by Rose Arjmand

Khabarnegaran.info-Journalists in Iranian media and newspapers have received new guidelines in their newsrooms. New red-lines have been introduced. Now officially censorship starts before choosing a topic for an article.

Censorship has gained a new weight and new meaning in recent weeks. Censorship has reached a point that aims to manipulate reports on people’s daily routines. Journalists believe that such policies would only leave people in disappointment and abuses their trust to the media. Censorship about inflation and price rise in the country are the latest redlines defined for journalists at economy desks.

Tehran prosecutor asked heads of media in the country to not cover the dramatic price rise in the country, to not write about sanction, to not write about the chaotic market of gold and currency in Iran. The prosecutor did especially focus on the rise of the price of chickens. The depth of the crisis is felt easily especially with the Police Chief Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam’s comments. The police commander urged for not showing “eating scenes” in TV series.

It seems that the Iranian authorities tend to solve the current social and economic crisis with such relines and censoring tactics. Ban on headlines about inflation .

Saeed is a journalist at economy desk of a news agency. He tells us about the new red lines New red lines for newspapers: “compared to last few months we feel the tight spot more tangibly. At least in the last few months we could mention price rise in headlines. Yet, now we cannot highlight the matter at all.”

He adds: “even in the body of the news we only can mention the price rise quite lightly, which has its own limitations.” This journalist states: “it has been a long time since we were banned from covering the economic effects of the international sanctions on the domestic economy of the country. We were told to not talk about the sanctions and actually we had to create an impression that the sanctions led to economic growth in the country.” The government overstepped the borders and blamed the media for the unruly market of gold and currency. Mesghal.com is an example of such wrong policies. The website shows the latest price of oil, gold, silver, various currencies, copper and other valuable elements in the world and Iran markets. The popular website is updated every 3 minutes.

Mesghal.com was blocked and users inside Iran did not have access to the website for the government policies. The manager of the website was under arrest for meddling in the gold and currency market. Saeed states: “still we do not have a website that is as credible as Mesghal.com which reports prices regularly and accurately. Such censorship did not help the chaotic market at all.” He went on to add: “for now the latest policies on censorship is mostly about the headlines. However, I have heard from my colleagues that all newspapers received written guidelines saying they should not cover the price rise in the country especially the price rise of the chickens.”

Media censorship reaches IRIB

Censorship is not limited to newspapers. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting corporation, which is a state run television network, has received some guidelines as well. Censoring scenes that actors are eating food is one side of the story. Soap operas and television series must avoid showing the price of fruits. Even some dialogs were cut for mentioning the rise of the price of food.

Asre Iran news website reported that the price of tangerine in an old film was censored: “Channel 2 censored the price of tangerine in the film “Let Me Live” which was made in 1986.”

A veteran reporter at IRIB told Khabarnegaran.info: “people do not trust the state run television at all. Such new policies will ruin the least of people’s trust in this network. The new policies are not about censoring some parts of the story. They are actually guild lines to distort the truth; the truth people live with it and experience it on their daily life. When we went to iron market to record a report; people were so infuriated with the censoring and fact-distorting policies of IRIB that they did not cooperate with us and in a few cases they beat our cameramen.”

This reporter added: “at the end the crew listened to the people and made a rough cut of the report. However, the managers and bosses on top do not approve the report and ask the crew to go back to the scene and make a report based on a distorted scenario which is absolutely against the truth.” He states: “the crew that has seen the people’s reaction in the first place, gives up the whole idea. They don’t even finish what they have started. Reports that do not reflect the truth only and only deprives us from people’s trust.”

Censorship in Conservative or Reformist Media Most of the reformist journalists believe there an extra pressure on reformist media. One of these journalists tells us: “reformist media are monitored more closely than conservative media. The government has employing double standards. It closes its eyes on the redlines that conservative media crosses, the same government keeps close eyes on reformist media.”

This journalist adds: “up to four years ago, censorship was mainly defined in bans on use of some words and topics. Sometimes they deleted a line from our reports. Now, we want to know what is not censored in the first place. Sometimes they delete our entire report. It created self-censorship in us. We are thinking about everything in our story from the moment we take a pen in our hands even before starting to write.”

She says: “if you are a conservative journalist writing for a conservative newspaper, you won’t be questioned even of you tell lies and write false stories. However, we, reformist journalists, have problems reflecting a true story, let alone writing an analysis. Although we were really cautious about what we covered, we have been receiving a number of warnings from government officials. Our last warning was basically an ultimatum suggesting that the next warning would be attached to an order to close down our newspaper.” These days, conservative media has not been safe from such redlines either. They have received orders not to cover news on price rise in the country.

Newspapers and other media across the country are feeling the censorship more and more every day. Do not these policies end in people’s disappointment? Do not people lose their trust in media in long term? Do not such policies push more viewers to watch satellite channels?

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