Iranian Press: The Paradox of ‘Modernity’
The post-revolutionary state in Iran has tried to amalgamate ‘Shari’a with electricity’ and sought modernity alongside what it considers as ‘Islam’. While in general sympathetic to private capital, on the basis of some quasi anti-capitalist politics, the state began to restrict market relations, confi scated major assets of sections of the Iranian bourgeoisie, and nationalized major aspects of Iran’s industry, including its communication system. Since the end of war with Iraq and the start of the process of ‘reconstruction’, a more market-driven development and economic policy have been key aims of the state. This process has been anything but smooth, and the state’s policy has been contested by the implications of ongoing protests by workers, various national minorities (including Azaris, Kurds, Turkomans, and Baluchis), students and women; further fragmentation of the ruling elites and intensifi cation of internal factionalism and disputes over the state’s policies; as well as the very defi nition and nature of the Islamic state itself. This chapter examines key aspects of the contradictions and tensions in the Iranian press market, social stratifi cation, and competing forms of ‘Islamism’/nationalism by looking at the context of production and consumption of the Iranian press. The fi rst section of this chapter provides an overview of the expansion of the Iranian communication system in general and the press in particular. It then proceeds to examine the role of the state in this process and to consider realities of the economies of the press, trying to move beyond one-dimensional liberal/modernization perspectives with their sole focus on the repressive role of the state. By providing a comparative analysis of the development of the press in Iran and other Middle Eastern countries, this chapter challenges the assumptions about a unifi ed and homogenous ‘Muslim society’ further, and paves the way for examination of the struggle for press freedom in Iran over the past few decades as well as review of the continued struggle.