Censorship in Iran

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Censorship in Iran is the limiting or suppressing of the publishing, dissemination, and viewing of certain information in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The majority of such censorship is implemented or mandated by the Iranian government.

Censored content often includes information that relates to pornography, certain news sources and certain religious content.

Censored media include essentially all capable of reaching an even marginal audience, including television, print media, radio, film, museum and gallery exhibits, and the Internet.[1] Most forms of media are vetted for acceptability by the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranks Iran's press situation as "very serious", the worst ranking on their five-point scale.[2] RSF regards Iran as one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.[3]

Subject matter and agenda[edit]

Censorship in Iran encompasses a wide range of subject matter. The agendas behind such censorship are varied; some are stated outright by Iranian government itself and some are surmised by observers inside and out of the country.


Censorship in Iran is largely excused as a measure to maintain the stability of the country. Censorship helps prevent unapproved reformist, counter-revolutionary, or religious proponents, peaceful or otherwise, from organizing themselves and spreading their ideals. In 2007, for example, five women were charged with "endangering national security" and sentenced to prison for collecting over a million signatures supporting the abolishment of laws discriminating against women.[4]

Some of the topics explicitly banned from discussion in the media by the Supreme National Security Council include Iran's economic troubles, the possibility of new international sanctions targeted at Iran's nuclear program, negotiations with the United States regarding Iraq, social taboos, unrest among Iran's ethnic minorities, and the arrests in 2007 of Haleh Esfandiari, Kian Tajbakhsh and Ali Shakeri.[4][5]


Two notable crackdowns on the Iranian press occurred on 7-11 August 1979, early in the Islamic Revolution when the Khomeini forces were consolidating control and dozens of non-Islamist newspapers were banned under a new press law banning "counter-revolutionary policies and acts." [6]

Despite a ban on satellite television, dishes dot many Iranian rooftops and people have access to dozens of Persian-language channels, including the Voice of America, broadcasting a daily dose of politics and entertainment. 30 percent of Iranians watch satellite channels, but observers say the figures are likely to be higher.[7]

A number of unauthorised foreign radio services also broadcast into Iran on shortwave, and encounter occasional jamming by the Iranian government due to their controversial nature. Such services include a popular phone-in programme from Kol Israel (Voice of Israel), where callers must dial a number in Europe to be rerouted to the studio in Israel in order to protect against persecution for communicating with an enemy state.[8]

In March 2009, Amoo Pourang (Uncle Pourang), an Iranian children television show watched by millions of Iranian children three times a week on state TV was pulled off after a child appearing on the program called his pet monkey "Mahmoud Ahmadinejad", live on air.[9]

In September 2017, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) condemned the Iranian judicial system and intelligence services (VEVAK) for their attempts to put pressure on Iranian journalists based abroad and on their families still in Iran in order to influence the Persian-language sections of international media outlets such as BBC Persian service to broadcast pro government programs and news.[10]


The agents of censorship are sometimes not official government employees, but religious organizations. In 2007, after student newspapers at Amirkabir University of Technology published articles suggesting that no human being—including Muhammad—could be infallible, eight student leaders were arrested and taken to Evin Prison.[4]

Distributing Christian literature in Persian (also known as Farsi) is prohibited.[11][12]

Arresting artists[edit]

Unwritten Law in Iran says: Arrest and Suppression of Artists.

On 1 March 2010, Jafar Panahi was arrested. On 20 December 2010, Panahi, after being convicted for "assembly and colluding with the intention to commit crimes against the country’s national security and propaganda against the Islamic Republic," the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced Panahi to six years imprisonment and a 20-year ban on making or directing any movies, writing screenplays, giving any form of interview with Iranian or foreign media as well as leaving the country except for Hajj holy pilgrimage to Mecca or medical treatment. Panahi's colleague,On October 15, 2011, a court in Tehran upheld Panahi's sentence and ban. Following the courts decision, Panahi was placed under house arrest. He has since been allowed to move more freely but he cannot travel outside Iran.

Hossein Rajabian, an Iranian independent filmmaker, After finishing his first feature film, was arrested by Iranian security forces on 5 October 2013 outside his office [in Sari] alongside two musicians, and was transferred to Ward 2-A of Evin Prison where all three of them were held in solitary confinement for more than two months and were threatened with televised confessions.his case was heard at Branch 28 of Tehran Revolutionary Court which was presided over by Judge Moghisseh' He was sentenced to six years in prison and fines for pursuing illegal cinematic activities, launching propaganda against the establishment and hurling insults at sanctities.

Internet Censorship in Iran[edit]

In the first decade of the 21st century, Iran experienced a great surge in Internet usage, and, with 20 million people on the Internet, currently has the second highest percentage of its population online in the Middle East, after Israel. When initially introduced, the Internet services provided by the government within Iran were comparatively open. Many users saw the Internet as an easy way to get around Iran's strict press laws.[13][14] In recent years, Internet service providers have been told to block access to pornographic and anti-religion websites. The ban has also targeted gaming platforms such as Steam as well as popular social networking sites as Facebook and YouTube, alongside some news websites.[7]

Banned media[edit]

In 2010, Iranian government began using cropping and other editing techniques to censor foreign movies deemed offensive or immoral. The thought behind this was that citizens would stop seeking out illegal, uncensored versions if approved versions of the films were broadcast. Censorship cut out the following: alcoholic beverages, sorcery, men and women sitting too closely together or touching, closeups of women's faces, low necklines on shirts, and many others. People are sometimes edited out or objects are strategically placed to cover what is considered inappropriate. For example, a low neckline on a woman's shirt is edited to be more modest. Dialogue in foreign films is often rewritten. For example, romantic implications are replaced with marriage proposals.[15]

Media that is banned outright[edit]



Video games[edit]

Censorship of the name of Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, former Shah of Iran, in a tomb in Iran

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tait, Robert (4 December 2006). "Censorship fears rise as Iran blocks access to top websites". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 28 April 2010.
  2. ^ Reporters sans frontières - Internet - Iran Archived 6 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine. RSF
  3. ^ RSF regards Iran as one of the world’s biggest prisons for journalists.
  4. ^ a b c MacFarquhar, Neil. (2007). "Iran Cracks Down on Dissent" Archived 25 July 2016 at the Wayback Machine.. The New York Times. Retrieved 24 June 2007.
  5. ^ Iran, Annual Report 2007 Archived 30 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine. Reporters Without Borders
  6. ^ Schirazi, The Constitution of Iran, Tauris, 1997 p.51
  7. ^ a b Media and internet Archived 20 February 2016 at the Wayback Machine. Yahoo!
  8. ^ "Listening to Iran" Archived 7 June 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (2008)
  9. ^ Robert Tait (11 March 2009). "Children's show falls foul of toy monkey called Ahmadinejad". The Guardian. London.
  10. ^ Reporters Without Borders (RSF)
  11. ^ (www.dw.com), Deutsche Welle. "What it's like to be a Christian in Iran | DW | 25.01.2016". DW.COM. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  12. ^ Cohen, Ben (2011-09-28). "Facing Execution for the 'Crime' of Being a Christian In Iran". Fox News. Retrieved 2018-04-11.
  13. ^ Feuilherade, P. (2002.) "Iran's banned press turns to the net" Archived 14 June 2004 at the Wayback Machine.. BBC.com. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
  14. ^ BBC News. (2003.) "Iran Steps Up Net Censorship" Archived 22 February 2007 at the Wayback Machine.. BBC. Retrieved 9 December 2006.
  15. ^ Fisher, Max. "Cropped Modesty: Iran's High-Tech Tricks for Censoring American Movies". The Atlantic. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  16. ^ لیلی نیکونظر (November 18, 2007). گزارش یک توقیف. Shahrvand-e Emrooz (in Persian). 2 (25): 12.
  17. ^ Curiel, Jonathan (2004-02-11). "In Iran, nightclubs are banned and concerts are rare, but movies abound. The Fajr festival is the country's Cannes". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  18. ^ "با حکمیت می‌شود مشکل به رنگ ارغوان را حل کرد". Cinemaema.com. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 15 April 2007.
  19. ^ Farzian, Behzad (2004-05-06). "Call for ban on film that mocks Iran's mullahs". Telegraph. London. Retrieved 2007-02-27.
  20. ^ "Iran bans US video game showing Tehran invasion". AFP. 28 November 2011.
  21. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 April 2016. Retrieved 2014-01-24.
  22. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 February 2014. Retrieved 2012-09-20.
  23. ^ "PC game 1979 Revolution: Black Friday banned in Iran, accused of 'hostile intentions'". International Business Times. 9 June 2016.

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