The Freedom of the Press from the Point of View of Imam Khomeini
1 . Introduction: Some people believe that the freedom of the press can lead a society to welfare and happiness and provide the means of development and progress of a country. Saied Jamal Al – Din Asad Abadi, who is one of the contemporary great thinkers and outstanding figures of the present age; it is the ideas that are prevalent about the press. He has considered the existence of freedom as one of the important and affective reasons on the development and progress of the European countries; he says: “one of the means that has led to the development of the western countries is freedom of the press. This freedom makes it possible for the press to diffuse both bad and good characteristics of the rulers. Those who have nice characteristics will develop them and those who are afflicted with corruption and selfishness have to quit them. No body has any objection to the freedom of the press unless they have stood against the truth and rights or they have blamed without reason. A person who is attacked by the press is able to ask for his rights of which he has been bereaved in a court of law, but in our press the situation is completely opposite to this. They appreciate good deeds and they also appreciate the bad deeds. There is no difference between good and bad; there is always exaggeration and the reason for this is lack of inclination on the part of the rulers and governors to correct the press.” ( 1 ) . Is, in fact as what Saied Jamal Al – Din says, the press one of the means of development and progress of societies or in today’s words is the progress of the society dependant on the development of the free and independent of the press? Basically what are the uses of the press in a society that can be considered as the causes of progress and development? Does the press have complete freedom or do they have some limitations and borders? The present research aims at investigating and surveying the points of view of Imam Khomeini about the position and uses of the press. Therefore answering the above questions in the thoughts of Imam Khomeini (R. T. A.) would be our guide through the discussion of this research. The freedom of the press that is considered in the domains of the political freedom and in fact it is one of the most important tests of political freedom. Political freedom in an Islamic society means that “the members of the Islamic society, and not a special group or class or the families of a special race, have effects and roles in the formation and leadership of a political regime; all should have such right. Political freedom means that all individuals and people independent of their clan, language, racial or religious relationships can lead the system to what they think is a favorable situation. . . .
It is natural when there happens for the ideas and view points to be different the idea that has more supporters (of course in the framework the principles and values that have been accepted by that system) its ideas and beliefs would be acceptable and the other have to follow them” ( 2 ) In the continuation of this definition we read: “When it is said that in the Islamic society people have political freedom, it means that they have the rights to choose to politically be active; they have the rights to publish newspaper and media, to form groups, associations, organizations, parties and political gathering and to express their ideas and political views.” (3) . In fact it can be said that Political freedom is expressing the mutual relationship between the rulers and the civilians; that the people have roles in the formation and leading of their political system and they are able to lead it to its perfect form; of course by setting aside the tribal, language, racial and religious inclinations that is available in all the people of a society. In any way with regard to the definition of political freedom that is presented here people are able to express their political ideas and thoughts by the use of the press and thereby can take part in the political system and accordingly play roles in it. They are able to lead the political system tot heir goals and requirements; in addition they are able to discuss their requirements and expectations with the political system. In an Islamic political system all people can take part and be involved in the management of the affairs of the country through their religious teachings and learning. ( 4 ) . One of the best ways to express one’s ideas and viewpoints is making use of the mass media. Independent press and newspapers (those that do not belong to the political system) are in fact apparent means that expose the requirements, desires critiques as well as the objections of the people to the governors and those who are responsible for the system. The dependant newspapers (those who speak from the point of view of the authorities) reflect the ideas and points of view of those who are in power as well as . . . . . . We might be exempted from offering a definition for what “freedom of the press means”. But in order to clarify this concept and the point of view of this article I am hereby giving a definition of the term. Based on the principle of “Freedom of the Press” human beings have the rights to publish their ideas and thinking through the written materials and the press. In order to do this they need no permission or their ideas, to be published, need no censorship” . ( 5 ) . Saied Jamal Aldin Asad Abadi give us an interesting definition of the newspaper and it is : “The meaning of the newspaper is that it should write the truth and open up those niches that are beneficial for the nation; it should tell the mistakes and then discuss the way that they can be corrected. It is not good for a newspaper to fill the newspaper full of exaggerations and overstatements which are not at all interesting. It is better that these kinds of newspapers are not published by any one in order to prevent themselves to be infamous and deplorable in the eyes of the people and the nation.” ( 6 ) . Therefore in the ideas of Saied Jamal, newspaper and in general mass media should try to express reality and publish what is beneficial for the nation and not to cajole and flatter those who are politically powerful. His holiness Imam Khomeini, in accounting for the characteristics of the civilized nations, considers the existence of the free press as its main features. In his ideas, in such societies people have to be free to express their ideas and beliefs in the common level and especially in the mass media. “A civilized nation is the one which is free, its mass media are free and people are free to express their ideas and thinking.” ( 7 ) .
2 . In the theoretical models of the contemporary system of the press with regard to the dominant press and political society of the country we are always facing with the opposing and various points of view regarding the ideas and theory of Imam Khomeini about the mass media and the press. The main question is what the theoretical model dominant on the thinking of Imam Khomeini are. About the system dominating the press system there has been quite a lot of different and various theories by the theorists. ( 8 ) . Although there is not enough opportunity and time to expound and explain all the theoretical models of the media and press system, I hereby briefly refer to most important one of these theories to choose for the theoretical framework of the present research. All in all it is possible to discuss the theoretical models dominant on the press system in the form of three general theories: authoritarian; freedom and social responsibility. A. The Authoritarian Theory: on the basis of this theory that has been much the effects of the authoritarian ambience of the end of the Renaissance, reality is something more than the result of the efforts of the mass of the people; it is the result of the efforts of a few and wise human beings who have the responsibility of leading the masses. These wise men are the same ruling geniuses who have power over the people due to their intelligence and better thoughts. They are the ones who are responsible for leading and publishing knowledge. In other words truth and reality are the two sides of the same coin and the nearer the people are to the center the more they come close to the truth. In this theory the media are mainly in the hands of the government and therefore any protest and critique is regarded to be damaging and a threat for the stability and immunity of the government and thus it is opposed. In general it can be said it is the political geniuses in power who decide whether a newspaper is printed or not. In fact based on this model the geniuses think instead of the people and they make movements and they take the responsibility to lead the thinking of the people. ( 9 ) . In any way, this model has a minimalist point of view of the mass media and their freedom. ( 10 ) . Therefore the territories and the boundaries of the mass media is understood from the speeches and thoughts of Imam Khomeini and accordingly they would ask for more lawful and even unlawful means in this regard. According to this understanding from the ideas and point of view of Imam Khomeini, one can see that he not only did not consider the mass media and the newspapers appositive means but also considered as a means for destroying and weakening of religion and religious system of the society; they also are considered as means of weakening the politico – religious system of the government and therefore they are the means of destroying and the society. On the basis of this model the existence of the free and independent press in the Islamic society will lead to the weakening and insecurity of the religious basses of the people and hence the weakening of the religious institutes. Also in this point of view, it is possible that the free and independent mass media and press that are active in the frame of law endanger and threaten the national immunity and the civil order. . . . . . . Therefore the mass media and the press should be in the service of the rulers and they have to comply with whatever the rulers say or wish. People do not understand what is good for them correctly and therefore the rulers decide for them and thus the newspapers should be restricted more. This point of view considers the press in the service of the rulers and the political power; Of course it is possible that such opposition to the news papers has its origins in the political and party contests and motives. But the reality is that such point of view can be seen clearly in the social level and the press system of the country. B. Freedom Theory: This theory which is the result of the growth of political democracy, religious freedom, growth of the free trade and free economics as well as the philosophy of humanism decreased the authoritative ambience. Accordingly it entailed a new concept named freedom theory. In any way this theory become more dominant in the last years of the 17th C. and the years of the 18th C. and continued into the 19th C. Liberalism, as a newfangled social and political system, was a framework in which different organizations including specially the press, with regard to the dominant philosophical principles, played their relative roles. This theory started from the 17th C. when England saw that the government has the press activities under control to a great extent. . . . . . . The government was making use of different and various controls and censorships and justifying them that their freedom is a threat for the immunity and the stability of the government. The freedom seeking claims of the liberal thinkers were in fact reactions against extreme use of power. In any way this theory is basically based on the classical liberalism and the limited government, the government of law, rejecting the abuse of power and dependant on discretion and appreciation of the private property. Freedom is between the people and people are responsible for their fate. Based on this theory the portion of liberalism in the mass media includes insisting on personal importance, dependence on the personal reasoning and the concept of natural rights and freedom of religion, statement and the press is a part of it. On the basis of this model human being is a rational and wise animal with a special purpose and one should not look at it just as a mere device. Human beings as a thoughtful organism are able to decide about his advantages and can organize the surrounding areas of it. It is a creature that is different from the other animals because of its capability to think and remember, to make use of different experiences, analyzing and coming to conclusion; he is a unique creature. The fulfillment of the potential humanitarian dimensions is one of the final goals that he wishes to achieve. Therefore the society and the government should not have any goal except for the fulfillment of his existential dimensions. ( 11 ) . . . . . . . IN any way this perspective has an extreme point of view about the freedom of the press. A group discuss Imam Khomeini’s point of view in this framework. They require absolute freedom of the press out of Imam Khomeini’s speeches. ( 12 ) . They are asking for the preparation of situations in which the newspapers can reflect and show the events and truth as well as realities in a better way. From this point of view the newspaper and the press can step in the way for the progress, development and political advancement of the society and bring with them happiness and felicity. In addition in this perspective, not only the mass media and the press, of course within the frame of law, are not regarded as the causes of national insecurity and social disorder but also they are regarded as strengthening means of social order and national security. From this point of view the rulers as well as the political power are in the service of the mass media and the press. In any way both of these perspectives that we have referred to (limited and authoritative point of view and the extremist and free point of view. . . . . .) express their own interpretations of the speeches of Imam Khomeini about the mass media and the press and they are making use of them for their own benefits. The question here is which theory is more in accordance with the ideas of Imam Khomeini? Is it possible to say that the ideas of Imam Khomeini regarding the mass media and the press does not accord with any one of thee two approaches and it discords with both and accordingly we have to take a new i. e. the third point of view? . . . . . . The answer to this question will be clarified in the third model. C. The social responsibility Model: this model is in fact the completed form of the freedom theory. In addition to accepting the freedom – seeking functions of the mass media and the newspaper, it considers some other special functions for it such as commitment and responsibility with regard to the people and society. The main point of this theory is that freedom and commitment are two sides of the same coin and as the mass media and the newspaper are allowed to criticize the government and the other organizations they have responsibility about immunity and the national advantages and benefits ; they have to reflect the needs of the people. Based on this theory the need of the people to have access to the right and truthful information is superior to the need of the mass media and the newspapers to complete freedom. The mass media and the newspapers have to . . . . . . understand their missions and they have to set them as the bases for their functional policies. This theory can answer the needs of the society. But if the mass media and the newspapers forget their missions, it is the duty of the other organizations to supervise the basic function of the mass media and the newspapers and make sure that these functions are done in the most perfect way. The supporters of this theory say that: 1 . The mass media and the newspapers should present a real, comprehensive and clear explanation of the every day events 2 . The mass media and the newspapers should be means for exchange of the ideas and for showing critiques. 3 . The mass media and the newspapers should reflect all the existing groups of the society; 4 . The mass media and the newspapers should reflect and show the means and values of the society. 5 . The mass media and the newspapers should have access to the true and right information and they have to be updated. On the other hand people in this theory have some commitments with regard to the mass media and the newspapers. People have to understand that that the mass media and the newspapers have strong powers and that this power is in the hands of a few people and that the mass media and the newspapers are facing some disadvantages as well. If in the freedom model what is focused at is the negative aspect of freedom (freedom from external limitations and restrictions . . . . . .), in the social responsibility theory it is tried to emphasize the positive points of freedom i. e. freedom for the sake of achieving nice goals and the basis of this theory the government should not authorize freedom rather it should be strengthened and developed actively and in necessary conditions they should take care of the civilians. ( 13 ) . Here in this theory what is seen is a perspective that can be located within the two previously mentioned theories. It can be said that the appropriate and acceptable theory with the speeches of Imam Khomeini id the theory of social responsibility. Because in his ideas the media will have two different functions: They can both move in the positive direction and enact the talents of the people and prepare the way for the people to grow and thereby develop the Islamic system; they have to commit to their commitments and responsibilities. They can also move in the negative direction and thereby they will make the society inactive, silent and aberrant and they can move in the direction that is disadvantageous for the people; in this way they move against their commitment and responsibility. . . . . . . This theory can explain and expound the ideas and thinking of Imam Khomeini about the mass media and the press both before the Islamic Revolution and after the revolution. Before the Islamic revolution he protested about the freedom of the mass media and the press in attacking the sacred beliefs and things of the people and he asked for their restrictions and limitation; why are these mass media and the presses are free? Why they are attributing unmanly and wrong attributes? If the clergy goes, the country will not have any supporter. Why the mass media and the presses are free to this extent? ( 14 ) . In these cases Imam Khomeini’s focus and concentration is on the subject that the mass media and the press should preserve and keep the values of the people and they have to avoid attacking sacred beliefs and values of the people as well as the Islamic values that have been accepted by the people. . . . . . . In addition it is at that time that we see he has talked about lack of freedom for the mass media and the press; he is criticizing the regime for and says why does not the regime pass a law based on which the mass media and the presses are free so that they may discuss what ever they may believe in? “You sit down and act based on the constitution law. The constitutional law has freed the mass media and the press; do you let them be free? Are we backward when we say act on the constitutional law and let the mass media and the presses be free? . . . . . . . ( 15 ) . What we want to say is that it is incumbent to act on the basis of the constitutional law. The mass media and the press are free; writing is free; and let them write subject matter. . . . . .( 16 ) . What is intended by Imam Khomeini here is that it is good if the newspapers and the mass media can reflect and show the requirement of the people and criticize the regime and its authorities as well as their policies and no body is allowed to silence them or to apply censorship on what they want to write. . . . . . . Therefore according to this model there is no discrepancy in Imam Khomeini’s speeches about the mass media and the presses and this is the best and the most appropriate paradigm in the frame of which the speeches of Imam Khomeini can be understood and interpreted. According to these ideas a third model is formed about the thoughts of Imam Khomeini concerning the mass media and the presses. From this perspective the mass media and the presses have a two – fold application and function: They have to take care of the benefits and advantages of the people and they have to try to clarify and enlighten the people. They have to avoid the subject matters and issues that are not beneficial for the people and the general welfare. According to this approach whenever the government observes violation of the law it takes action against tem and acts on its supervisory mission that it has with regard to the mass media and the presses. In any way this theory can be regarded as the appropriate or mediocre model for the mass media and the presses and the ideas and thinking of Imam Khomeini is understandable and decipherable in this theory. . . . . . .
3 . the functions of the press in the society has been taken care of for various and different reasons. One of these functions is that the mass media and the presses can play roles in the political growth and development of the society and the extension of the common culture. “In the western countries the written works, the number of the books, magazines and the press, the number and their variety, the degree of their accessibility for the people, the degrees of their usefulness, the rate of people’s references to the libraries, the ratio of the individual to the number of the book, magazines and the mass media and the presses they buy as well as . . . . . . are regarded as the major criteria of development and progress.” ( 17 ) . At the present moment in our society the mass media and the newspapers; the number and the variety of the newspaper in our society is so much that they cover almost all the politico – thinking movements in the society. On the other hand and in addition to the number and the variety of the newspapers that are published the number of the people that are studying them has notably increased. In any way what we mean is to express this point that not only the role of the press has not decreased in the society rather it has increased day by day and step by step and it attracted more addressees to it. ( 18 ) .With regard to the accepted model to interpret the speeches of Imam Khomeini i. e. the social responsibility model the newspaper will have a two – fold mission each of which has a special function and attends to a specific direction; In Imam Khomeini’s words: “The newspapers and the mass media can develop a country and lead them to a path that is advantageous for them; on the other hand they can also work vice – versa. “ ( 20 ) . Therefore the managers of the newspapers and the mass media should think about the responsibility and the role of these important media in society and about their continuation of existence; they should always bear the benefits and advantages of the society; they should stop going to the extremes and try their best to take an appropriate and middle position as well as take care of their social responsibility. It is on this basis that Imam Khomeini expects the newspapers and the mass media to appear in the form of a coach and lead the society. “All the newspapers and the mass media are the coaches of the society; they have to rear the society and the people living in it and they have to serve the country and its welfare.” ( 21 ) . In this speech he also refers to the educational role of the newspapers and the mass media and they have been asked to serve the people and publish their ideas and ideals. “The newspapers and the mass media should be in the service of the country, the newspapers and the mass media should reflect the ideas and the ideals of the nation; they should reflect what our nation wants.” ( 22 ) . One should note that by serving the country he meant that they have educational and humanitarian role. In this regard he says: “The magazine should be in the service of the country; it is to serve the country to rear, to rear young people, to make human beings; to make brave human beings; to create thoughtful men to be beneficial for the country” ( 23 ) . Therefore one important function of the newspaper in the point of view of Imam Khomeini is making human beings and thoughtful young men. In fact Imam Khomeini believes that the newspapers and the mass media have important roles in the education of the thoughtful men, scientists and future politicians of the Islamic society. The newspapers and the mass media in the social responsibility model has prevented the energy and the talent of the people to go astray and instead they moved them in the direction in which their beliefs, talents and energy are activated. It would be very terrible if they lead the youths towards aberrations and lead them astray and afflict them with vanity, absurdity perplexity. In any way, in as much as the future of a country is to great extent dependant on the degree of the work and efforts of its youths as well as the degree of knowledge, talent, zeal, creativity and wisdom as well as originality they can reach, the newspapers and the mass media can play an important and vital role in this path. The other function of the media from the point of view of Imam Khomeini is that the newspapers and the mass media are one of the important factors for keeping freedom and independence of a country. The continuation of freedom and independence that came into being with the establishment of the Islamic revolution is dependant on the awareness and vigilance of all different groups of the country; one of the most important guards of this basic principle and slogan i. e. “Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic” is the newspapers and the mass media. Imam Khomeini says : “if the magazine has a subject matter that moves the nation, it should be for the independence of itself, for the freedom itself and for safe – keeping of the nation; if by magazine, such magazine is meant, then it is an Islamic magazine and it is an Islamic republic magazine.” ( 24 ) . In addition to the important role of the newspapers and the mass media in human making, it has another function and it is moving the nation in a way to keep Independence, Freedom, Islamic Republic. It is natural that if the newspapers and the mass media do their first mission i. e. human making and move in that direction, it will be successful in the second role i. e. to move the nation. Of course readiness to defend and keep one’s country’s freedom and independence is fulfilled in many dimensions. It can be said that one of the important functions of the newspapers and the mass media is the role they play in political development and in extension of the democratic ambience of the society. In theoretic look the newspapers and the mass media play the role of a spotlight. In fact the newspapers and the mass media as a spotlight make the political scene clear for the people and they leave no dim angel. With the lightening of this spotlight, the authorities and those who are in power, think that they are exposed to the eyes of the common people. Therefore in this outlook the media create an ambience that exposes the function of all the authorities, organizations as well as governmental or non – governmental institutes and let the people see them; accordingly the authorities are exposed to the eyes of the people and they think they are responsible for their incorrect and wrong deeds. On the other the newspapers and the mass media can internalize the domination of the people. When there is the issue of power balance among the powers and political powers can not understand each other, it is newspapers and the mass media that try to show the scene less violent than what it may be. The other basic function of the press is that they try to remove the information discrepancies. This means that by the re – distribution of the information and knowledge they cause balance in the power balances. When there is extremism in the minds of the people and then balances created this balance shows itself in the society as well. Therefore the press can create balance against great and power media such as radio and TV. This is a kind of creation of democratic ambience and in this way they help freedom, democracy and the domination of the people. ( 25 ) . (In addition we can refer to another function of the press and that is the newspapers and the mass media, as they are modern phenomena and independent of what they are presenting to their addressees, cause the free movement of free information and the free movement of information will automatically result in the advent and strengthening of the new class of people i .e. the middle class. This class that is available in the third world countries and the developing countries are the main transporters of democracy. Therefore the newspapers and the mass media independent of what they transmit are useful and effective in the process of democratization of the society. ( 26 ) . In any way it should be noted that the newspapers and the mass media have been very effective in the development and expansion of democracy and in this way it is good to be called the forth source of power. The newspapers and the mass media form a powerful political means that can be very effective in reaching political development. Even it can be said that: “The numerous number of the news means can be one of the many elements of a regime as the number of the parties can be. This means that if the various political parties are not accompanied with the variety of the news means, they are imaginative and not real.” ( 27 ) . It is possible to say that one of the major priority of the independent and free as well as non – governmental newspapers and the mass media ensure the existence of different ideas and points of view in apolitical regime and system. It is in this way that one can tell whether autocracy is dominated in a country or it is the people that are dominant. One of the other duties of the newspapers and the mass media is criticizing the performance of the authorities of the political regime and defending the primary rights of the people against the political powers. Of course what we have supposed is that the rulers in Iran are religious and it is quite natural that the rights of the people are respected and their logical and lawful requirements are met. In a Shiite religious system people have a sense of identification with the government and accordingly they show more sensitivity about their functions and performances. Therefore the emergence of any aberration and deviation in the political system an