In the current situation, in order to digest the phenomena one must pay attention to more integral issues. What is clear is that everything in Iran is working its way towards militarization. Everything is set to run towards control by the armed forces of the Leader in defense of the interests of his rule. In school, children and adolescents are given military and ideological training, and through the creation of numerous material and spiritual incentives are encouraged to join the Basij and militia forces from an early age. Television and radio, schools, the press, the arts, and family culture, must all provide for this inevitable need. In such circumstances finding a career in military institutions in any capacity is far easier than gaining a place at university. Mobilizing or in other words the militarization of society as a whole is one of the policies that the system is reliant on. Now that a reasoning and intellectual component of the system, as reformists have disengaged from this and are trying to impose themselves on the regime in the format of social networks, only militarization and the creation of a fearful climate can bring relative stability. However much this balance and durability is hanging on by a thread, staying in power under any circumstances and at any cost is paramount to the leadership and current government of Iran. For cultural reproduction to show the current situation as normal and mobilize the people to heed the Leader's call, the state media has a crucial role. Iran’s state media that as a tool of the government in the 30 years of its life has trumpeted the system’s policies is now witnessing changes within itself.
- >Institutional Treatment
With the rise of Ahmadinejad and the appointment of officials and managers of his administration and government institutions, the state media too has witnessed important changes within itself. The (collective) establishment of family and non-professional relationships in attracting people and the casting aside of professional workers and cadres and absence of critics has resulted in the state media operating in an atmosphere of command and security. Although, the situation before was no better, but preparatory maneuvers in the news sector and laying down forces based on the level of loyalty to the regime and leadership, the fabrication of news stories and open spreading of lies alongside the confinement of scenarios like Keyhan and Shariatmadari all speak of scenarios illustrate. Added to this, the throng of people rallying outside the state media’s headquarters during the street riots led to its becoming equipped with semi-heavy military weapons. That which has taken place in recent months has caused the state media to be used as a tool more than ever.
The severity of inflation and decrease in people’s economic power was evident at the start of the new year, alongside widespread unemployment and lack of foothold in society among the youth; Furthermore more than half of Iran’s well known political, literary and artistic figures spent the new year in prison. Let alone the mourning families who in the desolation of losing their children had no festive season at all. For the people of Iran, imprisonment, execution and torture, poverty, unemployment and systematic violence are nothing new...it was only the outward expression and public confrontation of the people against the regime in the past year that gave Noruz this year a taste and colour brimming with hope and fear and can therefore be seen as a historical milestone and base for retrospective analysis of the current movement.
- >Media and Social Satire
The media or better yet state media (IRIB), as the voice of the leadership, is directly affected by relations between government and the people.The aim of this article is not to clarify the role of state media in the government’s relationship with society, but to describe a corner of events that could be a turning point in the planning process of this organization. Following the tradition of previous years IRIB broadcast programmes in the genre of satire over the New Year holiday. These TV series, for the first time featuring the work of Mehran Modiri, were able to draw large audiences, such that the behaviour and dialect depicted in them entered people's everyday language. The vital secret of the success of these programmes was in their mode of critical portrayal of the inescapable prevalent social conflict. The New Year satires in their indirect appraisal of administrative corruption, its culture and unhealthy relationship with society, in sports, art and culture, were able to attract a wide audience. Viewers of these programmes, rather than relating to the satirical aspect of these programmes, connected to the common suffering in their society on their television screens. It’s clear that these programmes were not a part of the pre-set policies of IRIB but the result of the initiative and innovation of directors and artists, the elimination of whose work from the state media after two decades calls for another coup in the realm of media.
The broadcast of TV series by directors like Massoud Dehnamaki during the holiday period can be seen as one of the most visible signs of a media coup. Although censorship and the systematic elimination of artists in the field of television and cinema has a long history, but the dismissal of Mehran Modiri as one of the new year programme’s index profiles of the past two decades indicates a different situation. Although irresponsible acts towards political-social developments detract from the director’s character and popularity, his exclusion from this year’s New Year scheduling has to a great extent reinforced his popularity. These days that imprisonment, criticism and standing against dictatorial policies gives a person character and credibility, expulsion from television and cinema could in better days bring popularity and prestige for Modiri and others likes him.
- >Mehran Modiri
Mehran Modiri made his debut in the world of television satire on Happy Hour in 1373 (1994) with the help of other artists such as Dariush Kardan, After a few years, with a great deal of experience behind him, Modiri was able to enter the fields of radio, theatre, television and most significantly communicate with people, to direct and act in ninety episode satirical programmes. From the very start Modiri and his colleagues were confronted with censorship, exclusion and the pressures of the press and media in Iran, and in the most difficult of circumstances managed to introduce satire to the dry and hostile television and cinema of the country. Cross relations and the social issues of the language of satire and innuendo were accomplished through his talent and innovation. His efforts in nearly two decades of directing in this area meant that Modiri's work were the most watched television programmes of recent years. For this year’s New Year holiday Mehran Modiri had prepared a television series called Ghahveye Talkh (Bitter Coffee) which was prevented from screening so that the cliché Dara va Nadar (Rich and Poor), Massoud Dehnamaki's stereotypical series could be broadcast instead. A series based on the stereotypical and repetitive topics of the director’s spun tales, is brought to our screens depicting the world of the rich and bad and the poor and oppressed, with familiar and repetitive characters, superficial and quick changes and of course full of slogans and direct messages. All this is a transfer of the director’s critique from cinema to television.
- >Reza Attaran
Reza Attaran the director responsible for the series Boznegah and Sweet and Sour has for some reason also been banned from television. Attaran was present among the people during the street protests. With the exception of these two key figures and of course Hamid Lola'i virtually all Iranian satire assets were put in front of the camera in the hope that the New Year programmes could recover the lost foundations of the national media. perhaps Nowruz programs can boost the lost profile of Iranian national media within the people. After all this the results were more disappointing than previous years. The dismissal of these artists and directors before anything requires their replacement with alternatives. With this approach Massoud Dehnamaki was responsible for making a comedy series by the name Dar va Nadar (Rich and Poor).
In response to this event Modiri and a number of his colleagues in the TV collectives made an unofficial announcement that they are not willing for their programmes to be shown alongside the works of characters like Massoud Dehnamaki; Thus as well as the dismissal of these artists at the hands of IRIB, their sense of honour and professional prestige does not allow them to compete with individuals like Dehnamaki.
- >Mohammad-Reza Shajarian
In the past other artists have for similar reasons also officially asked the national media not to air their works. Mohammad-Reza Shajarian, Iran’s great singing teacher, and music professor Abdol-Hossein Mokhtabad have both repeatedly stated that the state media is broadcasting their works without permission and observing ethical standards. In his latest response, a letter to the head of IRIB, Mohammad-Reza Shajarian wrote: As you are aware IRIB is constantly playing my patriotic anthems, particularly the anthem, Iran, A House of Hope. In 1374 (1995) announced that I was not happy for my work to be broadcast by IRIB. I have repeatedly made this request and emphasize that this institution has played no part in the production of these works and must immediately refrain from the broadcast of my voice and my works, in accordance with the law."
Abdol-Hossein Mokhtabad was extremely angry by the broadcast of his work within the New Year programme. In an open letter he declared that the work was from two years ago, therefore the inclusion of the word “live” on screen was a media lie by IRIB and diminishes its credibility more than ever. Mokhtabad states: "IRIB has shown that it has never been able to act fairly and impartially especially where artists and musicians are concerned. Naturally, as long as IRIB continues with such one-sided policies against artists, the people’s trust will diminish further and that’s why the media that spends a budget of more than 500 billion USD annually, is shamed and has lost the competition to media that does not spend one twentieth of this budget."
- >Zarghami, Head of Media Lies
And finally Zarghami, Head of IRIB in response to these statements, said: "Trust and creating opportunities for new groups for the incidence of creativity and discovery of hidden talents in the area of satire in the New Year proved to be one of the most successful we’ve witnessed." A media coup; the exclusion and filtering of professional artists and directors and their replacement with those who carry a black report card from previous years are just been some of the tasks that Zarghami has been responsible for and the most distinguished and determined of these efforts was the positioning of Massoud Dehnamaki in place of Mehran Modiri. Tenure of Modiri’s position and other artists who with their outlook and vision were able to establish a deep connection with society requires a large audience who spend little time on the state media. Adopting such policies pushes more audiences towards satellite channels and foreign media, something that reformist leaders have also repeatedly indicated and have again and again asked for the setting up of a satellite network. The state media’s loss of a social base in addition to the loss of legitimacy of the leadership and current government are also factors. The presence of one of the leaders of the club handlers of the university dormitory massacre and one of the supporters of serial killings on national television is not a phenomenon that people can easily ignore, nor is the presence of these imbeciles for the advancement of repressive policies and promotion of Basij culture and training of violence irrelevant to IRIB. Massoud Dehnamaki’s background speaks of a bitter reality the knowledge of which is worthy of your attention.
- >Massoud Dehnamaki
Massoud Dehnamaki is one of the founders and leaders of the militant Ansar-e Hezbollah group also known as "plain clothes" or “thugs” and was a key player in the university dormitory massacre of 17 Tir 1378 (9 July 1999). He is among the few who in an interview openly supported the systematic killing of intellectuals, saying: "The removal of enemies is a part of many other countries’ policies that is carried out in various ways. Regarding individuals who are on file for serial murder (defendants) - far from political affiliation, they must say that they acted upon their legal duties, that is the “removal of enemies". In a system, just as some are busy with the gathering of information, others are officers of the physical elimination of enemies and it’s usually the second group who does the most work and is less often appreciated.
He even made the following criticism of the performance of the intelligence officers: “The authorities have eliminated the harmless characters and activists, a mistake that can be made by any organization. Based on official interpretation of the Supreme Leader, the victims were a danger to the system. The important point is that that the perpetrators of the killings did not take priorities into consideration, otherwise the Leader would have applied a better interpretation, because the removal of “safe enemies” did not have any benefits, and only became a politic to help those who wanted, to reach their goal...the enemy - safe or unsafe - can be killed, but this needs time and planning, not arbitrary action. In fact in war the threat of the enemy in defense is less than that of an enemy in attack...Now if the Ministry of Intelligence (terrorists) has mistakenly removed some safe enemies, an unwritten text has no mistakes, all the young who lost their lives in ammunition factories were martyred because of pitfalls, so four safe enemies were eliminated because of the correct analysis or proper management of the Information Ministry. This does not give good reason to demotivate the intelligence agents (terrorists).”
Masoud Dehnamaki has in addition held editorships with weekly newletters Shalamcheh, Frontline and Morning, generally the writings of the Basij armed forces and Revolutionary Guard. After Ahmadinejad came to power he made two documentaries and films such as Deportations. In Deportations Dehnamaki uses humour and non-moral discourse and the unprecedented support of state television and other media to record sales, but became known as the worst director among critics, and despite pressure on the festival jury of the festival did not win any prizes for the film. The state media in support of the film and to secure higher sales for the actors involved in the series invited them for the early hours of the 1388 (2009) New Year celebrations, an obvious example of discrimination and protection of a personality who had promoted terror and violence more than directing. Unprecedented support from government institutions of Dehnamaki films culminated in the Ministry of Education issuing a communication that required schools to free the curriculum and take students to see the film. The Ministry of Education in previous years has been more of a production base for Basij stations such that classes in an unprecedented collaboration were taken to see this film so that children would be exposed, thereby fostering a culture of violence, terror, war, fear of the enemy and slavery to the leadership.
- Dara va Nadar (Rich and Poor)
Dar Va Nadar is Dehnamaki’s latest work and has been broadcast on state television. In this series, as in his two films for cinema, Dehnamaki uses a large number of well-known professional TV actors in order to cover the absence of a humorous and coherent script. Fath-Ali Oveyssi, Ali-Reza Khamse, Shohreh Lorestani and Behnoosh Bakhtiari are among the actors appearing in the series who were not only unable to conceal the shortcomings of this series but also brought to question their own talent by appearing in the series and collaborating with Dehnamaki.
Translated by Elham
Edited by Negar