Contrast in US, Iran Media Coverage of Iranian Presidential Candidates

Posted: 7th June 2013

Our previous post on the Iranian election sought to reveal clues about which Iranian presidential candidate should be considered Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s favorite to succeed Ahmadinejad. Another interesting signal derived from Recorded Future’s Web Intelligence is the coverage of each candidate from Iranian sources, including which sources cover which candidate, compared to the coverage of each candidate from sources published elsewhere. In this case, we’ll use the United States media coverage as our comparison.

Iranian Media Coverage of Candidates

All three Iranian presidential debates took place during the past week making media coverage from this period especially interesting to analyze.

The vertical axis is ordered according to total number of references, so you can see that from the Iranian sources collected by Recorded Future, the top three most mentioned candidates in order of volume are: Mohsen Rezaee, Hassan Rowhani, and Mohammad Reza Aref.

Two points of interest stand out from the data:

  • Saeed Jalili, cited by multiple international sources as the frontrunner, is seeing a relatively small share of coverage from Iranian media.
  • Mohsen Rezaee, an independent candidate and former IRGC commander, experienced the most coverage during the past week. Notable reporting on his campaign included coverage of his stances on resolving unemployment and bringing a new approach to nuclear discussions.

Volume of mentions is one metric worth investigating, but there’s another step to consider: what sources are most prominently covering each candidate? Identifying the top media sources for each candidate may also be helpful in determining the audience to which each has the most exposure.

A few highlights to call out:

  • Mohammed Bagher Ghalibaf, current mayor of Tehran, saw the greatest amount of his coverage come from local Tehran Times.
  • Mohammad Reza Aref, generally considered to be one of the election’s moderate options, has received much attention from the community driven news site Balatarin.

United States Media Coverage of Candidates

Now that we’ve got a grasp on Iranian coverage, let’s look at United States media in comparison.

Most interesting on first glance is the absence from the “top 8” of Mohsen Rezaee , who was most mentioned in Iranian media during the past week. He’s received minimal attention from Western media, which if he were elected seems that it would lead to a categorization of the result as a “surprise” by the American press.

The most mentioned candidate in US media during the past week  is Hasan Rowhani , the only cleric in the race. The dominance in coverage was largely due to arrests of his supporters during a campaign speech along with hints of a partnership with fellow moderate Mohammad Reza Aref to create a more formidable centrist presence come election day.

Additional Questions

We here at Analysis Intelligence are not Iran experts, but instead are looking to media data for clues and signals about the presidential campaign and individual candidates. What else do you see in the data?

Is it surprising to the see the attention from US media given to Rowhani and infringements on his campaign by police? Do you think that the coverage of Rezaee suggests he might be frontrunner? What other questions could we ask using Web Intelligence related to this or other elections?

Leave us your thoughts in the comments.