//The Iran Media Program provides an analysis of the current state of Iranian sanctions, and how recent changes to currency rates have created tension among the print media. Crossposted with permission and thanks.
It is increasingly difficult for independent publishers of books and print newspapers in Iran: The problem this time is not strict censorship, but the skyrocketing price of paper. Iran has reduced subsidies for imported paper, placing a stranglehold on an industry that relies heavily on paper’s import. The devaluation of almost 50% of the Iranian Rial compared to the US dollar and other major currencies has further made the import of paper from abroad exorbitant.
Under such conditions, President Ahmadinejad’s administration has been selective in financially supporting publishers and newspapers close to the government. Independent publishers and any publication that is critical of the government have been left to deal with this crisis on their own. As a result, some publishers have closed down, while some have reduced their circulation and publication schedules. Those with access to alternative sources of funding have decided to import paper, regardless of high prices, to keep their publication going.
Iranian publishers of books and newspapers can be divided into three groups. The first group is independent (or private). Their content is not directly related to or aligned with state policies or mandates. Western novels, magazines discussing secular ideas, or newspapers allied with reformists are often the focus of these publishers.
This group has been hit the hardest by the recent crisis of paper. They receive almost no support from President Ahmadinejad’s administration, which controls subsidies to import and distribute paper. They are also not affiliated with other government or religious bodies that often provide publishers with financial support. As such, they have to rely on the profit made from sales of their publications.
According to Kalemeh news site, about 100 independent publishers have gone bankrupt and shut their activities as a result of the recent crisis. Some other private publishers have increased their prices and limited the copies of their books, magazines, and newspapers. Iranian Student’s News Agency (ISNA) has disclosed that publishers print about only 500 copies of their books to cope with the increasing price of paper. This crisis has further limited access to independent print media that was already difficult enough to obtain beforehand with censorship alone.