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Monday, 21 February, 2000, 18:00 GMT
Print media triumphs in Iranian elections




The success of reformist candidates in the Iranian polls also marks a victory in the undeclared contest between Iran's often outspoken press and its more tightly-controlled broadcast media counterparts.

Iran's TV and radio outlets are under the jurisdiction of the country's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In recent years they have remained determinedly conservative defenders of perceived Islamic orthodoxy, despite the growing demands for change in Iranian society.

By contrast, Iran's flourishing newspapers come under the sway of the government and, in particular, the present Culture Minister Ayatollah Mohajerani. They have become a more accurate reflection of the mood of the nation, enabling Iran's highly politicised electorate to keep abreast of developments.

Campaigning ban

Despite the obvious great interest of the Iranian people in the elections, the coverage by the broadcast media has been low-key, almost to the point of invisibility.

In the weeks leading up to last Friday's election, the conservative-dominated outgoing parliament passed legislation imposing tight constraints on campaigning in general and banning it in the broadcast media.

Despite this, former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani and other conservative figures were allowed regular appearances on radio and television, leading to numerous cries of foul play from pro-reform candidates and newspapers.

Some newspaper editorials forecast that the conservatives' monopoly of the broadcast media could count against them as far as the electorate was concerned because voters knew that anyone who appeared on radio and television was favoured by the conservative power holders.

And when it came to announcing the results, it was left to the press to make the running. The broadcast media confined itself to announcing simple lists of successful candidates, with no televised election specials to try to explain the results to the viewing, and voting, public.

Keeping it in the family

Personalities from the Iranian press who backed President Khatami figured highly in the Tehran voters' favourites.

High on the provisional list of successful candidates in the capital's 30 parliamentary seats was Jamileh Kadivar, the culture minister's wife, and the president's brother, Mohammad Reza Khatami, who is also the managing director of one of Iran's newest and most successful dailies Mosharekat (Participation).

Another winning brother in the provisional results for the constituency of Tehran was Alireza Nouri, a previously unknown figure who was given ample space to express his views in reformist newspapers in recent weeks.

He made it clear he was hoping to win the votes of his brother, Abdullah Nouri, the managing director of the banned daily Khordad, who was jailed for five years following a high profile trial by the conservative-held Special Clerical Court last November.

Another leading vote winner in Tehran, according to the provisional results, was Hadi Khamenei, who, by contrast with his brother, supreme leader Ali Khamenei, stands squarely in the pro-reform camp.

He was the managing director of Jahan-e Eslam, a daily banned for several years under Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani's presidency.

Press attacks TV coverage

With the reformists taking a decisive lead in the polls, calls for changes in the media look set to make a swift reappearance.

Even before the polls, the news that the head of Iranian radio and television was planning to publish a newspaper in the near future prompted the Iran News newspaper to publish a mocking cartoon, depicting a sinking television set seeking help from a newspaper standing on a river bank.

In the same vein, an editorial in the English-language daily Iran News on Monday was in self-congratulatory mood.

"Our people ... voiced their long overdue demand for an active and free press when they went to polls the other day. To be sure, in the run-up to this last election, the press showed off its competency so overtly that it left lasting impacts on the public opinion in a big way.

"No-one can deny the negative role the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) has so far played in leaving hardly any influence at all on public opinion. This medium's lack of contribution to flesh out the public zeal for their highly-active participation in the elections came too late and with ill preparation.

"The political faction supporting the IRIB fared so poorly in this popular election that it verged on being catastrophic."

The paper said it was high-time that the new government conducted a "serious reappraisal" of the role of Iran's broadcast media.

"A non-government affiliated establishment may restore the lost efficiency of this medium and bless it with the effectuality of printed media," it said.

"Rumour has it that the reformists' shattering triumph in this ... election was highly indebted to the right faction's aversion to the pen!"

BBC Monitoring (http://www.monitor.bbc.co.uk), based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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Full coverage of Iran's landmark elections and the battle for reform



See also:
21 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Iranian vote finds warm response
18 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Analysis: All eyes on Iran
18 Feb 00 |  Middle East
In pictures: Iran goes to the polls
11 Feb 00 |  Middle East
Khatami urges reformist landslide
17 Feb 00 |  Media reports
Iran's 'violent political game'
30 Jan 00 |  Middle East
Poll test for Iran reformists

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