Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: Local journalist Mahdieh Amiri speaks of the hardships of practicing journalism in the southern Iranian province of Bushehr. Amiri has been working as a journalist in Bushehr for years. Since 2007, she has been the editor-in-chief of a few local websites, biweekly and quarterly magazines. She is now the editor-in-chief of hamooniran.com website and Ava-ye Dashtestan biweekly.
An unwritten page in the history of Iranian media
Journalism’s Moral Charter19 June 2012
Reported by Sara Mohseni
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info- Either call it charter or a book of law or even an ethical charter, whatever its name is; it has not been registered under the Iranian Press Regulation yet. There are various copies of its drafts, however, we cannot find a final version of it. Iran is one the few countries that does not enjoy any ethical press regulations.
Algeria, Italy, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bosnia, Moldavia, Malta, Turkey, France, the US, and many other countries have a copy of it. Iranian journalists, however, do not. We can even cross the borders and find many international journalistic organizations with such regulations.
The journalistic ethical charter explains both journalists’ ethical responsibilities in their career and their rights in this field. It lights the professional path for the journalists and teaches them how to deal with various situations. The charter is highly respected by both the mother organization and other organizations that they deal with them.
Journalistic ethical charter; unwritten text
A glance at the history of Iranian journalism shows that it is a mission impossible to find a journalistic ethical charter. There are various regulations, but it is impossible to find a practically supportive charter for journalists. The Iranian Journalists Association tried to write a comprehensive charter during its short life span. The charter never was finalized because the association was closed down shortly before it reached a point.
In the year 2006, Dr. Kazem Motamednejad released a draft of an ethical charter for journalists, which included journalists’ both rights and duties. This draft also joined other drafts and no one knows what is next. Writing such charters does not take more than a few hours, maximum more than a few days. Writing down a charter is not the big deal here. Such charters need strong associations or unions to guaranty it will be put in practice.
Mostafa Ghovanlou Qajar, journalist and senior expert in communication told us: "unfortunately, most of domestic media in the country suffer from such a shortage. Although a few newspapers may mount a poster on the wall of their newsrooms and call it a journalistic ethical charter, the Iranian media suffers from such an inadequacy."
Mohammadreza Nasab-Abdollahi, a journalist from Shiraz and the manager of NewsBan news website also points out such an inadequacy an interview with Khabarnegaran.info. He states: "I worked in various media. Basically I never saw such a thing as an ethical charter. I witnessed cases that journalists acted against the journalistic ethics.
He strongly believes in an ethics in journalism and says: "journalistic ethical charter is a must in any media to make journalists feel more responsible about their job. This charter is necessary to keep journalists from falling in unethical traps."
Qajar describes the charter as: "this charter is not a collection of slogans, it is a collection of the concerns of media in daily basis." He takes the children press as an example saying: "in such media, journalists must have a clear picture of their interactions with children. They should know if they can interview children or if they should seek permission from the children’s parents. The ethical charter must be written according to the needs of each specific media."
He says practicing the charter is the main goal of its: "there is no obligation or force to put every article of the ethical charter in practice. Each media should have an institute or a person to monitor how it is violated to practiced."
Hamshahri Newspaper; No Ethical Charter; One Ethical Committee
The Hamshahri Newspaper has been published in Iran for more than two decades, and still does not have an ethical charter. One of the staff writers of the Hamshahri, who spoke to us under the condition of anonymity, said: "they talked about an ethical charter while ago, however, it was just a talk."
She mentions that there is an ethical committee in the newspaper that monitors journalists and reporters’ work and observes any violation. She explains farther saying: "if a reporter violates rules, the manager cannot punish him directly. Any warning or penalty must go through the ethical committee channel. The committee holds a meeting and assesses the case according to the internal regulations."
Although the Hamshahri also does not have a written ethical charter, it is the only newspaper in the country that has a syndicate to support its reporters. The members of the Hamshahri Institute Syndicate are elected by votes of the Hamshahri Institute employees and elections of observed by a representative of Ministry of Labour.
This veteran reporter at the Hamshahri Newspaper explains: "the syndicate appoints two representatives at the ethical committee to make sure the committee act fairly. The Committee included two employee representatives and two managing representatives who are all elected by the Hamshahri Institute employees’ direct votes."
Iran Newspaper; No Ethical Charter, Many Hands of Government
On the other hand, we have the Iran Newspaper. It has been published for a long time and still does not have an ethical charter. Every time a new manager arrives, new rules arrive too. A member of the Iran Cultural-Press Institute tells us: "the Iran Newspaper does not have a charter." He states that mangers in this institute are selected and appointed unethically and based on the powerful lobbies they have with the government. He raises a question: "how can these people bring a charter to the institute? The Iran Newspaper has nothing but theft, betrayal, lies, and fabrication."
This reporter who spoke to us under condition of anonymity said: "Managers come, full up their pockets with money, keep independent journalists isolated, send the critics to exile, torture who stand strongly, and build a dark future for everyone."
He clears that managers tell people what their duties are, but repeats that there is no such a thing as charter.
One Newspaper Has Charter
The Haft-e Sobh Newspaper (Seven in the Morning) has an ethical charter consisted of seven articles. The newspaper that has connections to the Iranian government, published charter on their website on line. The Charter clears the reporters duties but does not mention their rights. The second article of the charter has a glance at the reporters’ rights but takes a detour to copyright rather than reporters’ rights.
One of the reporters of this newspaper has recently resigned from her job. She says: "the charter is a symbolic charter and it does not have any say in practice.
Ethical principles are supposed to guaranty a professional behavior from any media. Although everyone know the importance of such journalistic ethical charters, some distance themselves from it. Those media that distanced themselves from ethics of journalism are basically building an obstacle between themselves and their target audience.
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