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Tehran poll: 60% believe media has little or no freedom

Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has released the results of a domestic poll of how Tehran residents view television and print media.
EDITORS' NOTE: Reuters and other foreign media are subject to Iranian restrictions on leaving the office to report, film or take pictures in Tehran. 

A woman looks at newspapers at a news stand in Tehran December 4, 2011. REUTERS/Raheb Homavandi  (IRAN - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR2UTND

Iran’s Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance released the results of a domestic poll of how citizens of Tehran view television and print media. While polls in Iran can be difficult to conduct for a variety of reasons, the findings reflected some negative views toward Iran's domestic media.

The poll was ordered by the ministry’s Press and Information Department, which is headed by Deputy for Press Affairs Hossein Entezami. According the Culture Ministry’s website, 923 Tehran citizens were interviewed in March 2014. Of these, 56% were men and 44% were women.

Of the 861 people who responded with their thoughts on newspapers' level freedom to cover news, 14.5% said it was very high, 30.5% said to some degree, 43.5% said little or very little and 11.5% said not at all. The Culture Ministry’s website concluded that “60% of those surveyed believe the media does not have freedom of expression or has very little freedom of expression.”

When asked if they derive benefits or enjoyment from domestic media, 6.8% said always, 15% often, 26% sometimes, 18.7% rarely and 33.5% never.

The poll showed Tehran residents' average time spent reading of newspapers was 49.3 minutes daily, and 48.4 minutes for magazines. The most read newspaper was Hamshahri at 44.1%. Hamshahri is published by the municipality of Tehran and distributed within the city. It should be noted, however, that the paper does not take an editorial line supportive of Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf. Other popular newspapers were Iran newspaper, which is operated by the administration, at 12.2%, Jaam-e Jam at 7.5% and various sports publications at 5.9%.

For high rankings in trust and credibility 41.4% said Hamshahri, 8.5% said Iran newspaper and 7.9% said Jaam-e Jam.

Asked about Iranian television as a source of news, 23.6% percent said always, 35.8% often, 24.1% sometimes, 9.6% rarely and 7% said never. Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting operates all domestic channels and its head, Ezatollah Zarghami, is chosen by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

According to the poll, 51.5% of Tehranis said that they don’t use satellite channels for news, while 7.2% said always, 12.6 often, 19.7% sometimes and 9% rarely. Satellite dishes are ubiquitous in Iran and a source of concern for some officials worried about Western influence. While the poll did not address this issue, BBC Persian and Voice of America are the two most widely known news channels beamed into Iran via satellite.

The results of the survey were published May 11. According the Culture Ministry, another survey of this kind was taken eight years ago. Since President Hassan Rouhani’s election, Reformist newspapers have been able to cover a wider range of topics. Many editors believe that conditions have improved since the presidency of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. However, the judiciary is still active in targeting Reformist newspapers, particularly on religiously sensitive issues. Rouhani’s culture minister, on the other hand, has recently targeted and temporarily closed two hard-line publications.

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