Censorship has a long history in Iran. The beginning was in associated with the printing of the first newspaper in Nasser al-Din Shah Era. “Meehan” a (homeland) newspaper had published its first edition in February 5, 1876. However, the paper was controlled from the beginning due to allegation that the contents of the newspaper came against Nasir al-Din Shah’s desire. Nasir al-din issued a decree stopping the paper collecting its printed copies. After less than 10 years, Nasir al-Din Shah instructed the Ministry of Publications to establish (Censorship Department), which conducted direct censorship of books and works published inside Iran or come from abroad. The protests on cinema in Iran in 1905 raised a powerful sensation in publications. Those shows contained new concepts, which were unacceptable in the Iranian society. Thus, Tehran Municipality approved cinemas law in 1931, which stipulated that cinemas be obliged to obtain a license to screen their films. According to this law, the film must be presented to the delegate of Education in Tehran Municipality at first to cut what should be deleted.
Censorship in Iran continued to escalate until Khomeini era, he said:
“Those who are holding the toxic pens and write against Islam and detached for national and democracy matters, they want to twist the people from the straight pathway. Break the pens and back to Islam!”
This speech was as an advertisement to restrict freedoms in all spheres of social and intellectual life in Iran.
Censorship on individuals and thought reached an extent of print freedom decline more than any censorship tyranny tool practiced in the world at Jurist Leadership government. Censorship sought to damage ideas or to kill the idea owner. Censorship was intended to isolate an author from life and strangle him/her from all sides. This is not reprehensible Iranian leaders if they adopt censorship conduct; i.e., Khomeini coined this idea in his speeches with the beginning of revolution.
“We must be loyal to the people, and must not sit in our homes and hold our pens to write whatever we want. This will bring our people a disaster; this is betrayal for the nation. Shiites wanted to serve their religion and to be honest; we all must accept the Islamic republic”.
These words did not explicitly leave a little doubt among intellectuals about the future of freedoms in Iran. Moreover, even worse they were painting a black future prepared by Jurist Leadership regime.
Censorship over radio and television
“The Republican and Islamic dimension of the Islamic regime in Iran was weak in recent days. Unfortunately today we see significant moral corruption and deviation in the Islamic dimension …”
These words was at the beginning of Hashemi Rafsanjani trailer for the Assembly of Experts elections. Few hours later Reza Soleimani the director of public relations at the Expediency Council had declared on social media and news sites that Rafsanjani trailer has been subjected to censorship and deletion.
Jurist Leadership regime sought to restrict freedoms on television. In 2008, the Supreme Council of National Security in Iran has halted (Saba) Channel, arguing that it was illegal, because of Iranian Constitution that provides limited TV channels related to the state. The regime also acknowledged before that in July 1982 the law of Radio and Television, which consisted of 65 items, and it determines the line of this governmental body.
Article 19 of this Law stated that no programs and news that contain any of the following points would be displayed:
A: Military, political and economic secrets related to the state, or can be used by the enemy in case of publishing.
B: Charges against the institutions and organizations of the state, in addition to legal groups, associations and political parties.
C: Materials that lead to moral turpitude of and sanctity disclosure of the society.
D: Materials that offending religious sensitivities and national unity as well as create a sort of confusion in the society.
E: Material of propaganda for deviant and counter-revolutionary groups
F: Harm intimate relations with friendly countries, or lead to harm to foreign relations to Iran
The question here is what requires deletion on Hashemi Rafsanjani tape? However, he is the son of Jurist Leader’s regime and one of the powerful founders of the dictatorship and censorship in Iran. Moreover, what is the provision of Article 19’s Radio and Television law that Rafsanjani broke in his tape to be inserted under that provision?
♦ Article 175 of the Iranian Constitution stipulates that:
‘’We must secure the freedom of the statement and the dissemination of thought as long as he disciplined with Islamic standards and result in the interests of the state’’
According to law, the appointment and removal of head of the Radio and Television Corporation is by the supreme leader. The work of the institution is under supervision of a council composed of six members; two of the President advisors and another two advisers of head of judiciary, in addition of two members of the Shura Council.
The fierce battle that the Iranian regime ran from 1994 in an attempt to reduce the use of satellite dishes by citizens. The battle where the law prevents citizens from the acquisition of these dishes, and imposes fines sometimes up to thousands of dollars on whom ever installed these dishes on their roofs. Internal Security Forces conduct campaigns to collect these dishes, and collide directly with people. All regime’s attempts failed, as some studies carried out by the Iranian broadcasting Authority refers to join 10% of Tehran residents annually to satellite channels viewers, and there is an increase in recent voices calling the regime to lift blocking on this technology.
♦ The appointment and removal of the head of the Radio and Television Corporation according to its Law, however, controlled by the supreme leader. Moreover supervised by a council composed of six members, two of them are the President’s advisers, and two advisers from the head of judiciary, and two from Shura Council.
Censorship over the publication of books
The former cultural consultant at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Ali Asghar Ramadanbour said:
”At the time of Ahmadinejad’s presidency there was an administration established to work behind the backstage of the Book Directorate. The Ministry of Intelligence protected this administration; despite of it was unofficial but had an influential role in decision making about the publication of books or stop publishing houses. The basic transformation that has done by Ahmadi Nejad in this area is the ability to pull the decision making of the Ministry of Guidance and transfer this ability to the Ministry of Intelligence”
Ramadan bour adds that some authors have resorted to the cellars to print their books autonomously and publish very limited number of editions away from Censorship, so you can find books stores in the area of (Inqelab Square) where all books that the reader wants, even the prohibited ones, and this is a great danger for sellers’ life.
Stages of book publishing in Iran:
1-The writer back to the publisher after the final revision of the book.
2- Approving the book by the publisher, and sign a contract with the writer.
3- Printing and revision and organize the pages.
4- Get the serial number of the book and register it in the National Library to be indexed.
5- Fill the Ministry of Guidance form by the publisher and writer for pre-deployment
6- Record the book in Book Directorate of the Ministry of Guidance on a CD containing all the models and exterior design of the book.
7- Conduct the evaluation by Ministry of Guidance. (Duration: unlimited).
8- Get the list of amendments that must be made. (What needs to be deleted from the book).
9- Make the required amendments and send the book back to the Ministry of Guidance. (This phase may be repeated more than once and usually they reject the entire book).
10- Give the license in case of approval.
11- Publishing the book in hard printed copies by the publisher.
12- Fill the form of book delivery, register it and attach two copies.
13- Get final approval.
14- Putting the book for sale.
Depriving minorities of publishing on their mother tongue language
According to the Iranian constitution, “minority languages in Iran officially recognized and they have the right to study and publish in their own languages.” In fact, these promises have not applied in practice. For example, in Iran there are nearly 10 million Turkish Azeri, but during the past 90 years there was not any permission to study in their own language in areas where they live, in addition to the publication in this language. Not only Turkish language, there are eight million Kurds living in Iran, make up 10% of the population, however this statistics of the independent institution (Book House) stated that since the revolution until today only 0.13% of books published in this language. The Baluchi language were not better off, this language’s native speakers exceed two million people, most of them are Sunnis, this language is not recognized in Iran and has not yet registered any book in Baluchi language at the institution of (Book House).
Censorship on Press
Newspapers have not been better under the sword of censorship. According to the report of (Reporters without Borders) organization, with 64 men and 8 women journalists in prison, Iran become the largest prison for media activists in the world. Moreover, the government is using mass arrests to silence opponents of journalists and others.
Journalists’ Syndicate was established in October 1997 in the era of Khatami, but it was stopped in July 2008 during the reign of Ahmadinejad for flimsy reasons. Hassan Rawhani has promised journalists to rework the syndicate, but it has not delivered yet. It is worth mentioning that the number of syndicate members nearly 4,000. Iranian authorities exert constant pressure on press, where it constantly stopping and prohibit many newspapers and magazines to be issued. Khatami regime has stopped and prohibited many newspapers, including:
Jamie newspaper, Tous newspaper, AsrAzadegan newspaper, Salam newspaper, Khordad newspaper, Zen newspaper, Nowruz newspaper, Jumhuriyet newspaper, YasNou newspaper
In the Ahmadinejad era, the black era of press freedom, the authorities prohibited (46 daily newspaper), including: EndeNou newspaper, Sharq newspaper,ShahrvandEmrouz newspaper, Ham Meehan newspaper, Gargozaran newspaper, EtemadMelli newspaper,Kalema Sabznewspaperm, AndisheNounewspaper, AftabLorestannewspaper,Himmatnewspaper, MoujAndishenewspaper, Maghreb newspaper, Etemad newspaper, Sina newspaper, irandakhtnewspaper, Hayat Nounewspaper, Badr newspaper, FarhangAmozeshnewspaper, MadenahGaftagonewspaper, Bahar Zanjan newspaper, chalcharag newspaper, KheamNamehnewspaper, Asia newspaper, Naseer newspaper, Sadara newspaper, 9de newspaper, Wafa newspaper, Habelnewspaper, NasemBedare newspaper, Pardis newspaper, Aab newspaper, bamdad newspaper, IktesadWazendkynewspaper, ArousakSakhango, Abour newspaper.
Hassan Rawhani has begun his reign applying his promises of press freedom; he started with banning many newspapers including: newspaper Bahr newspaper and newspaper Ghanoun Aseman.
Iran: the enemy of the Internet
One of the advisers in the judiciary: ”five million website shave been blocked in Iran”, Maher news agency, November 2009. Freedom House, which is considered as a global body, monitors civil liberties in the world. It indicated in its latest report that Iran is No. 1 in the world in terms of tightening censorship over the Internet. Freedom House stated in its report:
”In spite of the positive speeches of Rawhani in regards of the Internet, freedoms in Iran still faces stiff opposition by the Supreme Leader and Conservatives Front. ” In comments of some young Iranians: ”The truth that what keeps Mullahs’ government in Iran alive is censorship; otherwise the government will be fallen in a short time”. ”Mullahs are afraid of people inform on what is happening in Iran and the world, they do not want people to realize the magnitude of the economic and social disaster, and the underdevelopment reached by Iran during the past 37 years, as well as the size of poverty and hunger of the people. ”Whenever Iranian people like something the regime took it away, I hope that people like the regime someday”. However, such comments, according to the Freedom House report, sent eight people behind bars in 2014, where they sentenced with a total of 127 years of prison. The report mentioned that Iran is ranked as 191 among the 199 states and that made it globally the worst in Press and Publications freedom.
Christopher Kolenbery, one of the activists in freedom of expression field on the Internet, said that the Internet situation in Iran is in crisis: ”The regime aims through closing and tighten censorship on this port to prevent political discussions, and organize rows in demonstrations. Freedom of opinion in Iran associated with death, life imprisonment or torture. The regime today conducting heavy Internet censorship, and likelihood that the Internet lies beneath tight security censorship. ” In March 2013, Reporters without Borders issued on the World Day of combatting Internet prohibition a report entitled (Internet Enemies) mentioned the five countries names, including Iran. During the last 100 years, printing censorship varied between strict to flexible, according to the ruling powers. Censorship often covered by religion and belief preservation at times, culture and language or interest and national unity at other times for suppression of freedoms. Censorship distinguished in the era of Jurist Leadership that a comprehensive ideological pillar named (Islam) supports it. That gave a distinctive position has enabled it to leverage the most walks of life privacy of individuals, surpassing political and social activities to their bedrooms, style of dress and even the food and drink. It is worth mentioning that all the official and unofficial organs of the State, grouped on the realization of the strict censorship as an instrument of unity and identity preservation tools. While a large percentage of the Iranian people are suffering from hunger, poverty and disease, Jurist Leadership expense annually regardless of hundreds millions of dollars in order to buy new and sophisticated technology to strength its supervision on the Internet and television, and also to prevent people from communicating with the outside world.