Global Insider: Political Repression Creates New Enemies for Iran’s Hard-Liners

Global Insider: Political Repression Creates New Enemies for Iran’s Hard-Liners

A media court in Iran found the Tehran bureau chief of Reuters guilty of propaganda-related crimes late last month. In an email interview, Ali Ansari, director of the Institute for Iranian Studies at St. Andrews University, discussed the climate of dissent in Iran.

WPR: What is the current climate for dissent in Iran, in terms of press freedoms and political discourse, and how has this evolved over the past few years?

Ali Ansari: The high-water mark of press freedom and activism in Iran occurred during the first Khatami administration, which began in 1997. These freedoms were gradually rolled back starting in 2000 when the hard-liners -- with the encouragement of the supreme leader -- moved to close down uncooperative newspapers through the imposition of a draconian new press law and some generous interpretations of this law by the hard-line courts. Where dubious legal procedures did not work, journalists were simply terrorized into submission. As long as the reformist government remained in office, a state of attrition could be said to have existed, as the government granted new licenses for each newspaper closed down. All this changed, however, with the arrival of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in 2005. With all the organs of government in the hands of hard-liners, dissent was systematically and ruthlessly constrained and, by 2009, violently crushed.

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