The complexities of the Iranian media ecosystem become most apparent during the election season when the heightened political climate leads to intensified scrutiny to and reliance on print media. In the absence of political parties, the press serves as a valuable tool during election campaigns, and this report highlights the shifting allegiances in national publications with a focus on politics, economics, and society. Newspapers are divided by faction (Pro-government Conservative, Traditional Conservative, Critical-of-the-Government Conservative, Affiliated with Reformists, and Reformist).
The narrowing space for dissent and free exchange of ideas in the Iranian public sphere and in public space has been one of the driving forces behind Iranians’ use of cyberspace as a mechanism for expression. The Internet is one of the few remaining platforms where Iranians can practice some level of open debate, less susceptible to social and political limitations. Research on Internet use in Iran sheds light on a large online community engaged in a diversity of activities and expanding at a significant pace. This study seeks to complement standard online research techniques by providing a richer picture of Iranian Internet users. The novel research method utilized in this study features 'archetypes' whose characteristics are described in vignettes, and who are defined based on their relationship with the Internet. Taking this approach, our study considers the Internet as an ecosystem, and works toward providing a more realistic narration of the diversity of Iranian Internet users and online environments.
The Iran Media Program publishes its groundbreaking 2011-2012 report on media consumption in Iran: Finding a Way - How Iranians reach for news and information. The report was authored by Magdalena Wojcieszak, Briar Smith and Mahmood Enayat and encompasses the results of two surveys conducted over the past year: the first is a field-based, systematically recruited sample of Iranians in several major metropolitan areas which mirrored the demographics of the country. The second study is an online questionnaire among young, metropolitan, educated and technologically savvy Iranians, and was aimed at illustrating the extent to which these youth employ new media for political purposes over a year after the contested Iranian elections and during the Tunisia, Egypt and Libya uprisings. The report combines the two studies for a comprehensive look at media consumption in Iran. Both studies obtained information on what sources Iranians consider most important for news and information, what kinds of new and traditional media are used and for what purposes, and which new media are used to discuss various issues. The prevalence of Internet use, online activities, and speed of access was assessed, as was the use of and engagement with certain platforms such as blogs, Facebook and Twitter. The surveys also examined the use of circumvention tools as well as the extent to which Iranians think citizens can be empowered through the use of new media.
This work offers an approach to conceptualizing, demarcating and analyzing a national web. Instead of defining a priori the types of websites to be included in a national web, the approach put forward here makes use of web devices (platforms and engines) that purport to provide (ranked) lists of URLs relevant to a particular country. Once gathered in such a manner, the websites are studied for their properties, following certain of the common measures (such as responsiveness and page age), and repurposing them to speak in terms of the health of a national web: Are sites lively, or neglected? The case study in question is Iran, which is special for the degree of Internet censorship undertaken by the state. Despite the widespread censorship, we have found a highly responsive Iranian web. We also report on the relationship between blockage, responsiveness and freshness, i.e., whether blocked sites are still up, and also whether they have been recently updated. Blocked yet blogging portions of the Iranian web show strong indications of an active Internet censorship circumvention culture. In seeking to answer, additionally, whether censorship has killed content, a textual analysis shows continued use of language considered critical by the regime, thereby indicating a dearth of self-censorship, at least for websites that are recommended by the leading Iranian platform, Balatarin. The study concludes with the implications of the approach put forward for national web studies, including a description of the benefits of a national web health index. Authors: Richard Rogers, Esther Weltevrede, Sabine Niederer and Erik Borra February 2012
Brought to you by the Iran Media Program and ASL19 In the past few weeks, social networking websites have seen an increased amount of online activities by Iranian Internet users. The recent earthquake in the East Azerbaijan province has resulted in a resurgence of Iranian users in cyberspace. This new wave of online movement, which has drawn pundits’ attention, is explained in more details of this report.
Before disagreements and tensions increased between conservatives and fundamentalists, reformists and their websites, newspapers, and magazines were the main target of censorship and filtering. However, since the final year of Ahmadinejad’s first term of presidency (2008-2009), media censorship has also been imposed on conservatives and fundamentalists. IMP and ASL 19 analyze the new wave of website filtering.
Iranian media censorship has extended to financial news. Despite the sudden and significant increase of the dollar and gold in the last few days, IRIB has not reported on the issue. According to a report by Baztab News Agency, news of currency prices will not be published by state media. The report suggests that a set of guidelines on this issue has been sent to broadcasters and program directors. In other news, over the past few weeks, there have been increasing reports of censorship in the Iranian cyberspace. Such censorship is not new to Iranian Internet users; however, what is unique about this recent crackdown is that much of the censorship is not a response to political activity, but rather a crackdown on blasphemy. A summary of some of the reports that were released in the last month can be found below. IMP and ASL examine the events.