On July 11, 2012, the Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Seyyed Mohammad Hosseini, publicly warned the Iranian press against publishing pieces about the negative effects of Western sanctions on the Iranian economy. This was the first time Hosseini openly admitted to the censorship of media, claiming that, “Our country is not in a position to allow the press to publish any analysis which is not agreeable with regime and national interests.” This was three months before Iran saw its worst economic crisis since the Iran-Iraq war. By October 3rd, 2012, the rial hit a record low against the dollar—dropping to nearly 38,000 rials to the dollar—with inflation estimated around 40 percent and merchants in Tehran’s bazaar closing their shops in protest.
With these new developments, the Iranian government cracked down even harder on the press and banned reporting on the newest currency rates. Sites that normally provided foreign currency rates, such as Mesgal.com and Mazanex.com were either completely shut down or, if able to be accessed, had blacked out rates for the dollar and the euro. All branches of the government downplayed the sharp decline of the rial. On October 2nd, Ahmadinejad stated at a press conference that it was not simply the sanctions, but internal conspiracies and the psychological warfare of the West that had caused the fluctuation of exchange rates. He announced that the economic crisis was only temporary, that the government was doing everything it could, and “that the media has made the situation worse by announcing the prices.” The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, gave a speech to a crowd of 10,000 people in the northern province of Khorasan and claimed, “News from the West has made our young people discouraged and desperate,” but “Our nation has never capitulated under pressure and never will.” The head of the Basij commented on October 15th that, “The Iranian economy will flourish at new heights, while Europe will be caught under an avalanche.” Paradoxically, the former Minister of Interior under Ahmadinejad, Sadegh Mahsouli, argued, “We are not in crisis, but actually in the best circumstances since the victory of the Islamic revolution. In every respect from internal security, political stability, public welfare, scientific progress, and spiritual influence in other countries and the world…” Finally, the Minister of Economy, Seyyed Shamseddin Hosseini, assured the public that the media was exaggerating the situation and that the government would swiftly resolve the economic hiccups. Despite these proclamations by government officials, the Iranian media was not as uniform in its reactions to the currency crisis.