These statements seem to lend credence to the perception of Rouhani as a relative moderate by some figures in the West. This perception has been widely disputed by opponents of the Iranian regime and by some of Rouhani’s former supporters who have observed a vast difference between his public statements on issues like human rights and his actual presidential policies relative to those issues.
This observed difference can be seen all over again in news stories that regularly emerge from within the Islamic Republic, and they call into question the actual political intent behind other comments by Rouhani, including his floating the idea of a more democratic approach to pressing issues.
In fact, the idea that the government is interested in courting input from its citizenry is immediately made questionable by brand new indicators of the suppression of free speech. On Monday the World Bulletin gave one such indicator when it reported that the Iranian government had shut down 17 foreign-owned television broadcast outlets, accusing them of trying to create “sedition” among domestic Muslims.
Along with websites and social media apps, television networks are regularly blocked or filtered in Iran, and the World Bulletin points out that eight UK and US-based networks were shuttered in Iran last August.
Meanwhile, there are also current examples of more hands-on denial of free expression, coming not only from Iranian government agencies but also from their proxies. About 100 protestors affiliated with the Iran-supported paramilitary organization Hezbollah gathered at a concert venue to prevent a performance by a band in Bushehr which had previously been banned from performing in the country for 16 years on the basis of the claim that their use of Western instruments and on-stage dancing contravened Islamic laws.