Exiled Journalist Describes Iranian Self-Censorship As ‘Walking Blindly Through A Minefield’

Vahid Pourostad, a well-known Iranian journalist who before being forced to leave Iran about a year ago served on the editorial boards of a number of reformist newspapers. One of Pourostad’s duties was to ensure that the content of the papers did not violate any of the “red lines” of the Iranian establishment. Reformist newspapers, he says, are forced to practice self-censorship in order to survive in the Islamic Republic, where in recent years scores of publications have been shut down. Pourostad, who was arrested in Iran in the postelection crackdown and is now a broadcaster with RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, talked about his work with Persian Letters.

Vahid Pourostad: In the Khatami era, I was a member of the editorial board of reformist newspapers, including “Nowrouz,” “Yas-e No,” “Eghbal,” “Etemad Melli,” and several others publications. One of my duties was to make the final control of the pages. My signature needed to be there for the managing editor to allow the paper to be published. It was necessary because of the repressive atmosphere and the pressure on the press.

One of the things that needed to be monitored was, for example, comments by Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei — meaning that we would make sure to publish only direct quotes from him. Indirectly quoting his comments could get us into trouble. We also had to make sure that his picture or comments w…

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