The Iranian Reform Movement and the Iranian Reformist Press: Survival and Development
In spite of the crackdown on the independent press (the closure of more than 100 daily, weekly and monthly newspapers in 1999–2004), what we can call a reformist press still exists in Iran. This phenomenon could not and cannot be diminished, although there have been qualitative developments and changes after the worst days concerning freedom of expression in Iran, April 25–28, 2000. Press trials that ignore due process, the imprisonment of journalists, and the continuation of the judiciary’s pressure on the press are some aspects of the power struggle between political factions in Iran.
This chapter addresses three questions. Why did the press crackdown happen? Why and how can a non-authoritarian press survive the attacks of authoritarian regime? What are the developments of Iranian non-authoritarian press in managerial, organizational, editorial and thematic aspects? The answer to the first question is a legitimacy crisis surrounding the religious leadership. The second question can be answered by looking at deep social discrepancies, divisions in the polity, the legal structure of license issuing for the press, alternative ways of information flow, non-violent way of action in reformist positions, social networks and temporary statuses that are not controllable by the government. Answers to the first and second questions deal with the theoretical roots of the development of the Iranian press. Possible answers to the third question involve factors such as the diminishing of an independent press and the monopolization of both an authoritarian and a reformist press in the hands of politicians who are inside the political caste. More editorial control over journalists, especially in critical subjects and relating to sensitive information, decreases in circulation, extensions of red lines and the waning of investigative and critical journalism will also be studied.