Currency downfall news censored in Iran
Iran’s currency plunged nearly eight per cent to a new record low against the dollar on Tuesday, but the dramatic drop was being suppressed within the country through censored mobile phone text services and some exchange websites. One money changer said that the street rate was 26,400 rials to the dollar, sharply lower than the 24,000 rate late on Monday.
The Mehr news agency reported a rate of around 26,000.
‘These prices cannot continue,’ the central bank chief Mahmoud Bahmani was quoted as saying on the web site of state broadcaster IRIB. He added: ‘We have a plan to control the market and we will announce it very soon.’
In the meantime, mobile telephone text messages that included the word ‘dollar’ in English or in Farsi were being censored, with the message not being received, AFP noted. The Farsi word for ‘foreign money’ was also blocked.
But text messages containing the words ‘USD’, ‘euro’ or the symbol were all transmitted and received normally. Text blocks on the word ‘dollar’ have been implemented before in Iran, on January 10, when the rial also dived precipitously. The country’s two main mobile phone service providers, MCI and Irancell, claimed at the time they were not filtering messages. Several Iranian websites that usually give real-time foreign exchange rates had the dollar rate blanked out on Tuesday.
One often consulted website, mesghal.ir, did give a dollar rate -- but at 25,350 it was inexplicably lower than that reported by street money-changers. Visitors to the money-exchanging district in central Tehran during on Tuesday saw many of the normally bustling shops half-shuttered, and none displayed a rate for dollars in its window.
Tuesday’s plunge deepened a sharp slide of five per cent recorded on Monday. Separate from the floating street exchange rate, Iran maintains a fixed official rate of 12,260 rials to the dollar, but that is reserved for the government and a few privileged businesses.
The rest of the country relies on the street rate, with the result that the price of imported goods have sharply risen in recent months.