Thursday, July 11, 2013

Rohani makes encouraging noises on Iran's shackled media



With the presidential elections over and Iran’s President-elect Hassan Rohani expected to assume office in August, international opinion continues to debate whether the new leader would help lifting restrictions on the media. 

This blog alluded to the debate in a post on June 21, where some commentators pointed out that even if he was pro-reform, Rohani remained under the control of conservative Spiritual Leader Ali Khameni. Others meanwhile said that Rohani was no friend of  reform but ‘permitted’ to win the election by the Iranian elite because of the international community's perception of him as a moderate would help navigate the country out of the morass of economic sanctions.

The debate remains, although optimists are encouraged by Rohani’s statement at a press conference soon after his election where answering a question on the closure of the offices of the Association of Iranian Journalists (AOIJ) he said: “guilds and associations are the best ways to run social affairs of the society.” On July 2, he had tweeted, “Widespread web filtering will only lead to increase in distrust between people and government.”

In an interesting posting on July 8, the Committee to Protect Journalists guest blogger Solmaz Sharif said, “The president-elect benefited from the support of reformist journalists inside and out of Iran.” Politicians are often known to reward journalists who helped their election to enjoy better access to them once ensconced in office. But Iran’s new leader will first have to release some journalists now in Iranian prisons and permit the return of others in exile. Will, and can, he do it?  

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