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Iran: Reformist daily on press pressures


 On November 1, the reformist daily Aftab e Yazd editorialized: “A report by the Guidance minister placed the daily Aftab-e Yazd on top of a list of nationwide dailies in terms of government criticism. We prepared ourselves then to bid goodbye to any government benevolence and in anticipation of certain penalties.

“The report itself showed that the penalty against Aftab-e Yazd had begun a long time ago. For example when the amount of published adverts, mostly by the government, in government papers or those less inclined to criticize the government is about three to six pages a day, there is no day when there is even a page of government or non-government advertising in Aftab-e Yazd.

“But we thank God we were able, while remaining duly respectful, to subject all domestic and foreign policy issues to criticism in our editorials, or that we honestly published people's messages to remind officials of weaknesses and shortcomings. On this basis every time our colleagues spoke of problems like fuel shortages facing press distribution companies, we would merely tell them to expect more problems.

“When some readers asked why in contrast to previous years, Aftab-e Yazd is no longer distributed on state airline flights, we informed them that for various reasons including the limited tolerance of some officials to criticism, the paper could not be distributed in any area directly controlled by the government. Of course we never expected much help from the government. Our only request was that if for some reason state agencies refused to deprive their lucrative advertising from those dailies that support or even admire the government to give some to Aftab-e Yazd, we should at least be allowed to hope for a lack of generosity and no more.

“For example if they do not wish to pursue the practices of the past decade and allocate hard currency to allow the paper to buy imported paper, then let them at least keep their promise to curb inflation and prevent Iranian paper that cost 150 tumans a kg at the end of Esfand 85, to be sold today at more than 700 tumans a k! g, and this by the single domestic producer, a state-affiliated company. But the government has explained that instead of allocating hard currency and preventing a 400-per cent rise in the price of Iranian paper, they would pay subsidies directly to newspapers.

“In all fairness, it did manage partly in this attractive offer to dissuade papers from insisting on the previous practice, which was a hard currency allocation with Iranian paper provided at 150 tumans a kg. The subsidy for the last four months of the year 85 was given in the very last days of that period - that is at the end of Esfand - and the allocation for the first three months of 86, on the fourth month of the year, resolving some problems. Regarding subsidies for the months of Tir, Mordad and Shahrivar, repeated calls and inquiries have led to nothing but kind and courteous replies from Culture Ministry officials! and promises of imminent measures.

“At this time the national broadcas ting body and certain dailies close to the government suddenly praised the president's declaration that there would soon be a festival to praise and encourage media critical of the government. This gladdened those dailies that believed that the delay in the payment of subsidies was for the encouragement they were about to receive, in the form of subsidies amended in line with rising costs, to be provided for all media and especially the critical media.

“We have to inform the president now and all those that have reiterated his remarks on encouraging the critical media that the presidential statement of praise and his prize have been received. Yesterday, 40 days after the end of the deadline for the payment of the second subsidy, the allocation for Aftab-e Yazd arrived with a 60-per cent reduction from the two previous payments, which in themselves were arguably unsatisfactory. We do not of course in any way doubt the good intentions of officials and do believe they intend through our greater obligatory tolerance of hardships and problems to ensure our greater spiritual fortification and better rewards in the afterlife.

“We do not know what other dailies will do. But we are sure that the reward for the revelations, warnings and criticisms made by Aftab-e Yazd is firstly with God and secondly in the loyalty, past and present, of readers who will encourage us with their messages and telephone calls. An unprecedented fall in subsidies is an undoubted proof of the effectiveness of these criticisms, and while this is of concern for the future, we have to say without any compunction that it has made all our work and efforts worthwhile.

“Because we are certain now that we have an impact, and this impact and effectiveness is evident in the recent conduct of those charged with supporting the press. Now we await our readers' instructive guidelines, so they may help us just to make up for the government-induced rise in paper prices, which have increased the paper's monthly expenses at least 300m rials compared to Esfand 8.

- Aftab e Yazd, Iran


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