By Saeed Barzin of BBC Monitoring on 17 January
Managers of major Iranian newspapers have complained that the government is late in the payment of subsidies to the press, and it is causing difficulties for the publications.
They say the payment of subsidies does not follow set regulations and they are being made arbitrarily, according to reports by the conservative Fars news agency.
However, the government has rejected the charges, and says it has allocated approximately 57 million dollars in subsidies to the print media. It says the payments are not late.
Many publications particularly the main pro-government dailies - rely on government support to survive, but not all publications receive state support.
Subsidies take different forms. A publication can receive cash, cheap paper or the guarantee that a certain portion of its output is purchased by state institutions.
Mansur Mozafari, the managing editor of the pro-reform daily Aftab-e Yazd, this week said his newspaper has not yet received its winter quarterly subsidy, which he said would now be probably paid in the spring.
"Unfortunately, there is no order in the payment of the subsidies", he said. (15 Jan)
The subsidy allocated to the paper had already dropped by 60 per cent in the summer quarter, he said.
"There is pressure on the newspaper," he added.
Newspaper managers have also complained that the subsidy payments are arbitrary, and work against newspapers which are not affiliated to state institutions.
According to Elias Hazrati, the managing editor of the pro-reform E'temad, the criterion for the subsidy should be based on a paper's news product, the quality of the publication, its number of pages and circulation.
But, Hazrati said, " newspapers are not receiving subsidies according to their status."! (15 Jan)
Mohammad Reza Jamali, who publishes a magazine on the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war and should therefore be seen to be politically favourable said that despite publishing nine issues he has not received any money.
"Not a penny has been paid to many publications in the recent period," he said, adding: "we have sent many letters complaining to Ministry of Islamic Guidance" which allocats the funds.
Government denial However, according to government officials payments have been made to the press. Deputy Minister of Islamic Guidance in charge of the press, Alireza Malekian, said "the subsidy is being paid on time and newspaper managers are happy with the system of payment." (14 Jan)
Subsidies are paid every three months - and if full support is not given in one quarter then the following subsidy is increased, according to the official.
The ministry has a budget of 53 billion tumans (approximately 57 million dollars) for the press and has already paid 16 billion tumans in the spring and summer quarters.
Lack of transparency
Complaints about the payment system are not limited to pro-reform papers. The managing editor of the conservative newspaper, Javan, called for greater transparency in the payment system.
"Previously, the payment to every publication was declared in an annual report," he said. "But now the amount and the method of subsidy is not known." (16 June)
This managing editor suggested that the government should once again begin publishing the reports.
Some book publishers for example those which publish religious books - also receive state subsidies, but many of them are not happy with the existing system either.
Seyyed Mohammad Ali Mar'ashi, the manager of HafezNowin company which specializes in the printing of the Koran complained that some people are making money out of the system.
Subsidies are particularly required because the price of paper has increased two fold this year.
Source: BBC Monitoring research 17 Jan 07