This is a study of the Iranian media, particularly the press, under the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is an attempt to partially redress the balance of the absence of a critical examination of the media in the region as whole and in Iran in particular. It is organized around a number of interrelated themes which account for an important aspect of formation, development/ underdevelopment of the media in Iran, namely the interaction between revolution, state, religion, and economy. The main proposition of this study is that the nature of the Iranian media, especially that of the press, cannot be understood simply in terms of ‘Islamic ideology’ or the beloved dichotomy of modernization theory: modernity versus tradition. It questions the claims that the Iranian Revolution of 1979 and the formation of the Islamic Republic represent a distinctly new epoch in Iran’s history and that of the Iranian media. It argues that while there have been some changes, the realities of the Iranian media cannot be explained by a simple reference to Islamic essence and tradition. Furthermore, it argues that understanding of the entanglement of change and continuity, expansion, and control, and the continuing role of the Iranian state remain as crucial factors and as central as they have been. In particular these are some of the claims and issues that I intend to address:
CULTURAL ESSENTIALISM, VALUES, AND MEDIA
The media environment in the Middle East altogether, and in Iran in particular, has undoubtedly received little attention. While extremely important in disciplines such as International Relations, until recently the Middle East had rarely fi gured in scholarly works of mass communication. The same factors which made the Middle East the darling of International Relations have proved a major obstacle in critical thinking about mediated culture in the region: oil, strategic location (before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union), and of course, Islam. As Sreberny (2001) has argued, this is rather astonishing since the paradigm of ‘communication and development’ (Lerner, 1958) was baptized out of research conducted in the region.