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Facing Boundaries, Finding Freedom: An In-Depth Report on Iranian Journalists Working in Iran

by Amy Brouillette; Briar Smith; Magdalena Wojcieszak

Aug 5, 2013
Media censorship in Iran has been the focus of much international attention and concern, particularly since the state's crackdown on journalists following the 2009 elections. In the aftermath of the mass protests against Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's 2009 presidential victory, authorities arrested and imprisoned scores of reformist and opposition journalists and bloggers, while closing dozens of opposition media outlets deemed responsible for fueling domestic unrest. These measures put a spotlight on the repressive environment in which Iranian journalists operate, and revealed the intensity of efforts by hardliners in power to thwart reformist ideas and control the diversity and flow of information to Iranian citizens. Iranian journalists faced another wave of state pressure during the 2013 election, as authorities sought to stifle any criticism of the campaign that might spark political dissent and protest. Months ahead of the June election, more than a dozen opposition journalists were arrested and numerous pro-reform print and online publications were either banned or blocked. Authorities also tightened controls over online media -- throttling Internet speeds, and filtering and blocking social media sites and domestic and international news portals -- an effort that significantly hindered access to online information and communications and weakened the role of online media as an effective campaign platform for candidates. With this report, the Annenberg School for Communication's Iran Media Program offers -- to our knowledge -- the first systematic evidence of the working environment of Iranian journalists. It addresses a critical information and research gap regarding the reporting practices of Iranian journalists, their perceptions of editorial freedoms, their ideas of what the media's role is in society, and the ways in which reporters and editors contend with Internet filtering and censorship. The fundamental aim of this study is to generate a deeper understanding of how Iranian journalists operate -- both within and despite an environment of heavy state oversight and restrictions -- as well as to broaden our perspective of the complexities of media censorship in Iran.