The office of the Supreme Leader has issued a chart of the “dos” and “don’ts” for the media in covering the upcoming presidential elections this summer. Iranian media, particularly the websites that are close or attached to specific political figures, tend to be relentlessly aggressive in times of political turmoil, such as elections. The list consists of various statements Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made on different aspects of the media. One side consists of a list of seven dos. The other consists of 13 don’ts.
The first recommendation is to “Add to the level of public awareness and analysis” because “people should analyze in order to understand that the system is beneficial for them.” The first point continued that whether writing about “politics, culture, economics, foreign policy and especially domestic issues, they must move in the interests of the system.”
The second point is the “three primary responsibilities: critique and monitor, spread information (truthfully and transparently), exchange of ideas.” The point added that “a free media is a sign of the growth of a nation;” however, Khamenei argued, “there other things that are of value and these freedoms must not trample those other things of value,” adding “one must be able to preserve freedom while at the same time understanding the truth, to have a free media while not provoking injuries.”
The third recommendation is for people “who write and speak” to “encourage people toward a better election.” The fourth point to journalists in the media is to “guard the elections as if it were a divine blessing” because “the enemy wants to use the elections against the security of the country.”
In the fifth recommendation, Khamenei warns that “criticism should be logical and realistic.” He offers the example of the media’s recent attention to Iran’s issues with domestic production and the closing of factories. He said, “If there is a factory that is experiencing problems and you want to state that with a realistic view, very good. In addition, for example, two other factories were also opened. If you point out the positive points, the country will understand the issue. If you don’t point out the positive points, the country will not understand the issue.”
Khamenei asked that “the electronic media also bind themselves to the law” in the sixth recommendation. Websites in Iran, as opposed to newspapers, sometimes have fewer bureaucratic hurdles to cross in order to produce their work and sometimes operate more freely. Bloggers have virtually no supervison except for Iran’s cyber police. In November of 2012, relatively unknown blogger Sattah Beheshti was apprehended by the cyber police and died a short time after in custody. Iran’s judiciary stated that while Beheshti had signs of abuse on his body, he may have died from shock. His case has been take up by various activists and online campaigns that have been critical about the lack of accountability in this case.
In the seventh recommendation, Khamenei warned about accepting and “quoting” lies and gossip about one another. He recited the verse from the Quran, “When you heard it, the believing men and the believing women should have had better thoughts about themselves, and should have said, ‘This is obviously a big lie.’ [24:12]” Although, on this last point, Khamenei elaborated that this was a “societal” problem.