The University of Pennsylvania’s Iran Media Project and ASL 19, a Canadian non-profit working against censorship in Iran, explain how sanctions are increasing the Iranian government’s censorship capabilities:
It is increasingly difficult for independent publishers of books and print newspapers in Iran: The problem this time is not strict censorship, but the skyrocketing price of paper. Iran has reduced subsidies for imported paper, placing a stranglehold on an industry that relies heavily on paper’s import. The devaluation of almost 50% of the Iranian Rial compared to the US dollar and other major currencies has further made the import of paper from abroad exorbitant.
Under such conditions, President Ahmadinejad’s administration has been selective in financially supporting publishers and newspapers close to the government. Independent publishers and any publication that is critical of the government have been left to deal with this crisis on their own. As a result, some publishers have closed down, while some have reduced their circulation and publication schedules. Those with access to alternative sources of funding have decided to import paper, regardless of high prices, to keep their publication going.
Regardless of the cuts on subsidies for importing paper, the government continues to provide these publishers with subsidized paper and the administration has allocated major funds to purchase books from these publishers. Finally, the government helps these publishers by purchasing government-sponsored advertisements in their magazines and newspapers, and given this generous support from the government, this third of group of publishers has hardly been affected at all by the increased price of paper.
Sweeping economic sanctions exact a deep toll from cultural heritage and the arts. As the United States and its allies continue to exert economic pressure on Iran, those of us who care about and work in the arts should be aware of the negative effects such actions have on cultural production and cultural preservation. The severe sanctions imposed on Cuba and Iran go beyond the interest of any government in their impact on people and their culture.