Media and the Elections: Back to Press after Nowruz Holidays

This piece was originally posted with the Iran Media Program.

This past Saturday Iran resumed regular business hours after more than 15 days of Nowruz holidays, during which print media were temporarily at a standstill.

Despite the standstill in the production of daily news, Year in Reviews have become a common publishing practice for many newspapers, covering a variety of topics including politics, culture, sports, and the economy. Political analysis and opinion pieces are typical features, especially this year as the Presidential elections are just two months away.

Overview of Year in Review editions

Panjereh weekly focused on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s transformation since his first term in 2005.

Politics was the main theme of Shargh’s Year in Review, which featured an interview with Ayatollah Hashemi Rafsanjani’s daughter Fatemeh Hashemi Rafanjani who discussed the hardships their family has faced, such as the arrests of her siblings and her brother’s recent health problems in prison.

Bahar reformist newspaper mainly covered cultural topics. The cover of the publication was designed by Iranian reformist intellectual and advisor to President Khatami, Saeed Hajjarian and the focus was on the upcoming election with reporting on some of the most notable imprisonments during the past Persian year.

Year in Review of reformist Bahar newspaper

The Year in Review edition of Sepah affiliated Javan newspaper focused on the political arrangements for the next election, with pieces mostly critical of Ahmadinejad and his government.

Etemad newspaper focused on Hashemi Rafsanjani and his family by publishing several pieces, interviews, and photos on them. Most of its election content focused on the fundamentalist faction, with the exception of a few interviews with reformists.

Post-Nowruz election coverage

Reformist Newspaper Coverage

Members of this party are still deciding who their presidential candidate will be in the 2013 election and discussions indicate that they are far from reaching a consensus. A general trend for reformist newspapers has been to focus on whether Mohammad Khatami should run for the presidency again and how Hashemi Rafsanjani will shape the political scene as the next election approaches.

Shargh newspaper reported on reformist plans calling for “a government of hope, trust, and stability” which was signed by 46 reformists, including Mohammad Khatami and his former advisors and consultants.

On April 8th, Javad Etaat, a consultant to Mohammad Khatami, announced that reformists will introduce a single candidate in the upcoming election. In an interview with Bahar, Etaat stated that reformists are worried about current trends in Iran but also and hopeful that Iran will change in the future.

The Fundamentalist Faction close to Khamenei

Bahar and Etemad reported that at least 16 candidates from the ruling faction will run for the presidency in the upcoming election. Bahar added that fundamentalist figures have been announcing their participation in the upcoming election on a daily basis.

Ali Akbar Velayati told Ghanoon newspaper that the final candidate representing fundamentalists will be selected from the 2+1 coalition (Velayati, Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf, and Gholam Ali Haddad Adel). Velayati added that the three members of 2+1 will agree on who will represent the fundamentalists and this final decision will be made after taking the Supreme Leader’s point of view into consideration.

The Ahmadinejad camp

Arman newspaper reported that Ahmadinejad intends to invite around 100,000 people to the appreciation ceremony for the staff members of the “New Year trips Facilitation Group” on April 18. Parliamentarian on the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Avaz Heidarpour stated that the government might use this opportunity to officially introduce its candidate for the next presidential election. However, several MPs, including Hossein Naghavi Hosseini voiced concerns during the first parliamentary meeting after Nowruz that the government, which is responsible for executing the election, should not be allowed to campaign on behalf of any of the candidates.

Government officials, however, deny that the government has special plans for the election and indicated that their only concern is holding a valid election with high voter turnout. Ahmadinejad, Rahim Mashaei, and other top officials from the camp have emphasized that the current government is not planning to introduce any candidate to represent the government in the next election. Rahim Mashaei also denied that the new “long live the spring” motto is in any way related to the upcoming elections.