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Media Dependency and Public Skepticism in Authoritarian States: Discursive Trends in Disseminating Information about COVID-19 in Iran
Matin, Alireza Azeri
Korea Institute of Science and Technology Information
Publication Year
Being one of the first and hardest hit countries by the coronavirus, Iran still continues to preserve its place among nations with the highest rates of infection and COVID-19 related deaths. While on the surface, such worrying status evinces the failure of the authorities in handling the crisis, at deeper levels, it points to the fundamentalist nature of the government and political system of the country. In this view, the current devastating condition in Iran is a clear indication of the all-out influence of the Islamic regime’s ideologies on officials’ decision-making and their political agendas throughout the pandemic. Accordingly, the staterun mainstream media, as the most preeminent institution of power, have been incessantly engaged in disseminating a series of ideology-laden information around the issues concerning the coronavirus, and in line with the developing political discourses during pandemic. Far from being based on factual accounts or scientific facts, these disseminated messages inevitably grew into a source of disinformation, ultimately resulting in overall public confusion and skepticism. Through examining the data gathered from some of the most prominent online news agencies run by the government, this study identifies five major discursive trends through which the mainstream media propagated ambiguous and manipulative information about COVID-19. These findings are then explained in the light of media system dependency theory, leading to the argument that within autocratic nation-states, public reliance on media during a national/global crisis brings about new opportunities for state exploitation, and further distressing consequences for the people.
COVID-19; Iranian mainstream media; ideology; media system dependency
Journal Title
Journal of Information Science Theory and Practice;Volume 11 Issue 4
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