Management has warned the staff of a public radio station in Iran not to discuss economic difficulties, as these are now considered a matter of national security.
In a recent voice message sent to all producers and hosts of Radio Farhang, the director of the radio station, Alireza Habibi, urges them to avoid reporting on economic woes and government responsibility and threatens them that mistakes will not will not be forgiven because these problems are now “seen as [national] security issues.”
In an audio recording of the message, which Iran International has acquired, Habibi also says that instead of discussing these issues, under the current circumstances, the media should focus on advancing the “psychological safety” of society. “And don’t include dark, critical or high-priced newspaper headlines in the programs,” he tells them.
Avoid criticizing the government, the official tells staff, until “the dust settles and the smoke clears” because criticism of the government can turn into “criticism of the state” in its entirety.
Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who traces the macro-policies of the countryincluding the economy, takes no personal responsibility for the failures and has repeatedly publicly accused the government of President Ebrahim Raisi’s predecessor, Hassan Rouhani, of economic turmoil. In his address to workers on Mondayhe made no mention of the politically sensitive rise in bread prices and urged everyone to support the Raisi administration.
Since 2017, Iran has seen several major protests fueled by economic grievances rather than a specific political issue. The driving force behind the unrest, including the November 2019 nationwide protests over a fuel price hike that killed hundreds, and the 2021 water shortage protests in Khuzestan and Isfahan, were mostly ordinary people rather than political groups and parties.
In recent weeks, Raisi and his economics team have come under heavy criticism for economic mismanagement from a wide range of critics, including other hardliners who helped him take power in the year’s election. last.
Many blame Raisi’s government for failing so far to reach an agreement with world powers to reinstate the 2015 nuclear deal, which would lift US sanctions and give a boost to the struggling economy. . But the economic failures of the government and the regime are becoming increasingly difficult to justify, even given US sanctions.
Raisi says his government has halted ‘inflation growth’, which is now above 40%, and will soon come down and show its effects, but rising prices are not helping convince those most affected by the difficulties, it is a good majority of Iranians.
Poverty has soared in the country to unprecedented levels. According to official figures published by the Ministry of the Interior, in total, about 60% of the 84 million Iranians live below the relative poverty line, of which between 20 and 30 million live in “absolute poverty”. In 2010, for example, the number of people living below the absolute poverty line was around 10 million according to government statistics.
Over the past few months, the prices of many basic commodities have risen, several times in some cases, and the government is considering removing the subsidies it pays for certain foodstuffs and other commodities. The announcement of plans to remove flour subsidies has already driven up the price of many products, including pasta, cookies, pastries and sandwiches.