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Newspapers and Print Media: Iran


newspapers have been active in iran since 1850.

The first Iranian government newspaper, Ruznameh-e vaqa-ye ittifaqiyeh (Newpaper of current affairs), was founded by the reform-promoting prime minister Amir Kabir (Mirza Mohammad Taqi Khan Farahani) in 1850, and it continued after his downfall (in 1851) as a chronicle of official information. No other newspapers were permitted during the reign of Naser al-Din Shah (18481896). Consequently, the most important early Iranian newspapers were published outside the country: Akhtar, founded in Istanbul in 1875; Qanun, founded in London in 1890; and Habl al-Matin, founded in Calcutta in 1893. Following the Constitutional Revolution of 1906, numerous newspapers were published inside Iran. Most papers supported the various ideological factions that emerged after 1906. By 1909 Tehran's largest circulation paper was Iran-e now (New Iran), a paper that openly espoused European socialist ideas. Ziya Tabatabaʾi founded a paper in Shiraz, Islam, that backed the constitutional movement. During World War I he moved to Tehran, where his paper Raʿad supported the British. In 1921 he joined with the future shah, Reza Khan (subsequently Reza Shah Pahlavi), in organizing the coup d'état that led less than five years later to the deposition of the Qajar Dynasty. As Reza Shah consolidated his power throughout the 1920s, the independent press was subject to increasing censorship. Press freedom was restored after Britain and the Soviet Union forced Reza Shah's abdication and exile following their joint invasion of Iran in August 1941. During the next twelve years newspapers represented every ideological tendency found in Iran, and papers in Armenian, Azeri, Turkish, Kurdish, and other ethnic minority languages also were founded.

The 1953 coup d'état that enabled Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi to assert his authority over the Majles and effectively establish a royal dictatorship ushered in another period of strict press censorship that lasted for twenty-five years. Just after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, there was a new and rapid development of newspapers that reflected a diverse range of opinions and views, but after six months, press restrictions of increasing severity began to be introduced. By the early 1980s censorship prevented publication of material deemed contrary to the official ideology. After 1989 censorship regulations gradually relaxed, and the number of publications again increased. In 1997 the Ministry of Culture began to issue licenses to virtually anyone who applied for a publishing permit, and within a year more than one hundred new dailiesmore than one-fifth of them in Tehranwere being printed throughout the country. Many of these newspapers proclaimed their commitment to democracy and criticized political leaders and policies they identified as antidemocratic. The objects of these political barbs used the court system to get several papers banned on grounds of slander and incitement, and in several cases journalists were fined or given prison sentences. Despite these setbacks, many editors and publishers subsequently brought out their former papers under new names. Since April 2000, what could be termed the reformist press has been more careful in its political reporting to minimize conflict with a generally hostile judiciary. Nevertheless, Iran's newspapers and print media in the early 2000s had a larger readership and offered a broader spectrum of views on political ideas than at any other time in the country's modern history.

see also iranian revolution (1979); naser al-din shah; pahlavi, mohammad reza; pahlavi, reza; tabatabaʾi, ziya.


Kamalipour, Yahya R., and Mowlana, Hamid, eds. Mass Media in the Middle East. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1994.

eric hooglund

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