TEHRAN, Iran — Isa Saharkhiz is a prominent Iranian journalist and one of the founders of the Press Freedom Defense Association in Iran. At the beginning of the presidency of Reformist Mohammad Khatami in 1997, he was in charge of domestic publications within the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, an era which Iranian media experienced unprecedented press freedoms and growth. However, in 1999 there was a backlash by conservatives that resulted in the banning of many newspapers. Saharkhiz eventually resigned as a result of the crackdown.
He later founded a daily, Akhbar-e Eghtesad (Economic News). After the controversial elections of 2009, he was arrested and sentenced to prison. This past September he was released after having served his prison time. In an exclusive interview with Al-Monitor, he talks about the challenges faced by the new administration, how he sees the future of journalism and the importance of civil institutions as the administration focuses on economic growth.