May 13, 2019 – Iranian newspapers are suffering from a severe shortage of paper, according to Hossein Entezami, chairman of Iran’s Working Paper Management Group.
“The government has promised to keep the exchange rate at 42,000 rials to a dollar to facilitate the import of printing paper,” Mr. Entezami said. He made those comments after a high-level meeting on May 13 with First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri, Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance Abbas Salehi, the Central Bank Governor Abdolnaser Hemmati and representatives from major newspapers.
“In the next two weeks, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance will supervise the distribution of printing paper in the government’s customs warehouse,” Entezami added. “The authorities will prosecute anyone who has taken advantage of the government’s low foreign exchange rate to import printing paper and to sell it at inflated prices.”
Many broadsheets newspapers have had to reduce their pages in recent weeks. The May 11 issues of Iran and Hamshahri dailies contained only 8 and 16 pages, respectively. The latest issues of Arman and Doniya-e Eghtesad also have had fewer pages.
“Print Media Is in a Coma,” read the May 12 front-page headline of Hamshahri. The paper said: “Hamshahri has reported on paper shortage many times in the past, and yet there are those who prevent printing paper from reaching newspapers. We have been buying paper at much higher prices from intermediaries for a long time. It would appear that wholesalers’ warehouses are better places to keep papers than newspapers! The outrageous prices are not just alarming. The countdown towards the demise of print media has started. The price of paper has quadrupled in the past few days, selling for $3.56 a kilogram.”
“We Do Not Have Any Paper,” was the front-page headline of the morning financial newspaper Jahan-e Eghtesad.
On May 8, Mr. Salehi and Minister of Industry, Mine and Trade Reza Rahmani wrote to Mohammad Nahavandian, the vice president for economic affairs, asking him to maintain the government’s low foreign exchange rate for paper imports in line with the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s decree, issued during the recent Tehran Book Exposition.
The Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance reportedly uses 90,000 tons of paper every year at the cost of $10 million.
Chief of Tehran police Brigadier general Hossein Rahimi announced on May 2 that his officers had arrested the so-called “Sultan of Paper” and his 16 accomplices, who had imported and hoarded 30,000 tons of printing paper using the government’s low foreign exchange rate. They had planned to sell the papers at inflated prices. The arrest of the “Sultan of Paper” has not, however, eased the paper shortage in the country.
[Translated from Persian by Fardine Hamidi]