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Iran’s Propaganda Budget Allocated with No Checks and Balances

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The Iranian government has allocated at least 360 trillion rials ($600 million) to its propaganda activities in the current calendar year (March 21, 2024 – 20 March 2025) amid a deep economic crisis.

The figures in this budget might seem small when converted into US dollars but considering that many private and public sector employees earn under $200 per month, it is easy to see the scale of the spending. On the other hand, the total propaganda budget constitutes a large part of the country’s annual budget which is being paid out partly by printing money. This fuels a more-than-%50 annual inflation that has impoverished tens of millions of people in the past five years.

One more thing to consider is that many of the propaganda organizations also receive funds other than their official annual budget.

The reformist daily Etemad in a report last week tried to make sense of a hodgepodge of scattered numbers to arrive at a total budget figure for propaganda. This is not an easy task in Iran, as the government allocates money for propaganda in every line item, often under obscure designations. The total figure of 360 trillion rials, therefore, might be just the tip of the iceberg.

However, some numbers were clearly mentioned. For example, 1.10 trillion rials ($1.8m) of the propaganda budget is allocated to President Ebrahim Raisi’s provincial visits. At the same time, while 5 trillion rials was allocated for May 10 runoff parliamentary election, mostly spent on advertising the highly staged-managed vote, to urge people to participate. The result was an eight-percent turnout.

Over 800 billion rials has been allocated to the committee that follows an international legal case about the killing of former IRGC Qods Force Commander Qasem Soleimani by the United States in 2020. Meanwhile the government is to spend 20 trillion rials on the publicity for Iran’s membership In the BRICS and Shanghai pacts.

Furthermore, Iran will spend 269 billion rials to help the office of the country’s Cultural Attache’ in South Africa. That is in addition to another 2.8 trillion rials for its Islamic Center in South Africa.

According to Iran International TV, 77 trillion rials will be spent by the Islamic Propagation organization, a body that works in parallel with the Culture Ministry in an inexplicable duplication of efforts.

Iranian analyst Mehdi Khalaji told Iran International that the Etemad report reveals only the tip of the iceberg about propaganda spendings by the Iranian government. He said Iran runs a financial empire for ideological activities in Iran, the Middle East and other countries.

While Etemad argues that Iran’s extensive spending on propaganda has yielded no tangible effects, Khalaji counters that such expenditure has contributed significantly to the survival and continuity of the Islamic Republic, its powerful clerical system, and the expansion of Shiite soft power in the region.

Khalaji highlights the influence of the clerics in Iran, noting that they control one third of all land in Iran through religious endowments. Meanwhile, the Etemad report details the budget allocations for propaganda, including 9 trillion rials dedicated to enforcing the anti-US legislation passed after former US President Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal. Additionally, nearly five trillion rials fund the state broadcaster IRIB, which also taps into the country’s oil revenues from the National Development Fund. Furthermore, 10.5 trillion rials are allocated to “institutions under the Interior Ministry,” which include unofficial security forces that suppress protests, and 8.5 trillion rials support pilgrimages to religious sites in Iran, Iraq, and Syria.

Meanwhile, the government will contribute 500 billion rials to help Amir Al-Momenin Seminary in Tehran as well as 1.5 billion to help the Al-Mahdi religious education center. Some other items in the propaganda budget include:

  • 420 trillion rials for propaganda aimed at making “the population younger” through childbirth,
  • Over 11 trillion rials for the missions of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance,
  • 9 trillion rials for the missions of the Islamic Communication Organization, another parallel entity working alongside the culture Ministry,
  • Nearly 3 trillion rials to help the Seghalain satellite TV network which Iran claims broadcasts religious propaganda to the world,
  • 8.3 trillion rials as the exclusive budget for the Islamic Propagation Office of the Qom Seminary,
  • One trillion rials financial assistance to the ultraconservative Mesbah Institute,
  • Nearly another 40 trillion rials to assist the Qom Seminary,
  • Nearly 12 trillion rials additional budget allocated to the Islamic Propagation Organization,
  • 1.4 trillion rials for Sarcheshmeh Nour Cultural Institute,
  • 5.9 trillion rials for Shamim Marefat and Strategic Islamic Knowledge Institute,
  • 16 trillion rials for the Arts Center of the Islamic Propagation Organization,
  • And tens of trillions given to ill-defined organizations such as the International Ashura Foundation, The Cultural Institute for Islamic Knowledge, and the Center for Iranian-Islamic Progress Model as well as several organizations to promote prayers and fasting.

According to Etemad, these budgets have been allocated to organizations whose functions are not clear to the public and never disclose their financial statements. It is also not clear who is spending all that money, where and for what purpose, as there are no checks and balances in place to control the financial status of those organizations.