Thursday, December 29, 2005

Iran's Publishing Industry in Deep Crisis

Bahram Rafiee, Rooz Online:
Iran's publishing industry is going through serious crises. For the last four months, the Ministry of Culture has not issued any licenses to publishers for the publication of any new books, and officials have stated that even all those licenses that had been issued in the past will be reviewed again.

The director of Kavir Publishing House, an active veteran in the industry, complains about the policies of the Ministry of Culture and says the new officials believe that officials of the previous government (of Mohammad Khatami) were not religious or Moslem enough to take note of people’s religious and ideological views. This obsession to observe Islamic and religious regulations in the publishing industry has put a heavy burden on readers and publishers. READ MORE

Many publishers believe that such hardline policies will destroy the publishing industry and will replace it with a new selective industry that will not publish the works of independent intellectuals and writers, and will only focus on those writers whose work supports or is in line with the views of the government in power.

The appointment of Hussein Saffar Harandi as the Minister of Culture by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has certainly pleased many of the president’s ultra-conservative supporters. Harandi's new initiatives to impose heavy censorship on the arts and culture in Iran are a manifestation of his future policies to pressure the industry even more.

The manipulative policies of the ultra-hardline new ministry are aimed at forcing society to follow the government’s ideology, and to control culture and the arts by eliminating independent publishers.

The director of a publishing house said, on condition of anonymity, that the negative impact of the recent policies of the Ministry of Culture to pressure the publishing industry is similar to those practiced in 1970s, pointing out that the time for such methods, however, has long passed. “In the modern world, governments cannot control readers who may be against its ideology. Unfortunately the dictated policies of the Ministry of Culture will seriously damage the circulation of books by two or three thousand numbers but my experience of 20 years has shown me that readers will pick and read books of their choice even if the harshest censorships are imposed”, he said.Such policies will turn Iranian writers and translators to publishers outside Iran who would be willing to publish their works, but the change would hurt the domestic publishing industry, leading to bankruptcies.

This situation of the publishing industry can have destructive economic and cultural consequences for country as a whole. In addition, the policies of the new hardline ministry have forced many workers out of their jobs, exacerbating the national unemployment situation.