The press environment remains affected by severe censorship and repression. This, however, cannot prevent the access of a large mass of Iranians to plural sources of information, many of them illegal. The ban on foreign-based satellite TVs is largely circumvented by residents of big cities and rural areas alike. A crucial aspect in the media landscape is that it is still largely dominated by televised information. On the Internet what is going on at the moment looks like a cat-and-mouse game between authorities who consistently try to enforce new restrictions and controls and technology-savvy young generations who are consistently looking for new ways to keep themselves informed and generate debates on political and social sensitive issues that are frowned upon by the representatives of the Islamic system as well as by the most traditional sectors of society. A game that seems bound to continue, because none of the two sides seem able to reach a final victory. What is clear, however, given the high level of education and the young age of the population (56 percent under the age of 25), is that preventing Iranians from accessing sources of information, be it domestic or foreign, is impossible.
Legal domestic media are highly politicised, with a predominant role of the conservatives, first of all thanks to the control on TV broadcasting. But the presence of the other factions, including the reformists, has survived over 15 years of repression following the liberalisation policy of the first years of the Khatami presidency. Reformist newspapers and websites can continue their activity like those of all the other groups that accept the ‘red lines’ of the system in power, even though they had to soften their tones and accept some forms of self-censorship.
Even the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, after the eight years of the ultra conservative Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, could not substantially improve the situation of the freedom of the press in spite of the promises made during his electoral campaigns. This is perhaps due to the limited powers of the president compared with those of other institutions - most importantly the judiciary and the security services - that are controlled by conservatives. This is proved by the fact that the main wave of repression against the press started during the presidency of the reformist Khatami, in 2000, although against his will.