Mostly, western outlets take a more critical tone on the Iranian government, while for the most part, criticism is notably absent from the Iranian reports. In some cases though, to our surprise, the opposite is true.
A notable case in point is Iran’s complex relationship with the World Wide Web. This week, Reuters, The Telegraph and other major outlets, along with smaller sites such as Bustle, praised Iranian President Hassan Rouhani – elected on a moderate ticket – for saying it was time Iran embraced the internet rather than making “cowardly” moves to censor it.
The Telegraph’s criticism of Rouhani’s political rivals was a bit more pronounced, noting that they had ordered his freedom of speech address taken off the air. Bustle took a tongue-in-cheek approach to the president, but had no shortage of criticism for Iran:
Don’t worry, Rouhani, it’s hard to be a social media maven in a country that bans Facebook!
And indeed, around the time of Rouhani’s speech, Iran had blocked access to Google and Wikipedia in a move some said exposed the country’s “double stance on internet freedom.” An Iranian site, Parsina, reported that Viber was blocked as well.
In Iran, some writers and artists – even those published in government papers – put the banned sites and apps aside and went back to the basics, to the everyday reality of surfing the web in Iran. One caricature, published in state news agency Tasnim, showed a carriage-carrying snail with the words “Iran internet” drawn on his shell, telling a would-be passenger called “Data” that the going rate for a ride was 45,000 toman per kilometer. Clearly, that snail has a long way to go.