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.
Uncertainties about Comprehensive System of Media, replacing media regulations21 July 2012
Translated by: Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info-It is titled “Comprehensive System of Media” and is supposed to be an all-embracing regulation for all media of any types in the country; from print media to electronic media, from blogs to social networks. They want to replace the country’s last media regulation with the new system. Activists, however, are concerned if the it is supposed to limit the media rather than regulating them.
Normally, when rights and regulations are mentioned in any conversation, limitation, blocking, obstruction, dictating rules backed by the government are revived in people’s mind. In Iran first press, radio, and television were established and then the regulations were written to standardize them. Such a situation has always been under government’s close observation to prevent rather than protect various voices.
It is a serious question that the media society of the country asks: does the new comprehensive system of media let the government intervene at all levels? Or the media has some rights as well? There will no clear answer to this question because the system has not yet been presented to the Iranian Majlis and government refuses to discuss it openly.
Criticizing Individuals and Organizations; Yes or No
Iranian Culture Ministry’s Legal Department Director Ahmad-Ali Mohsenzadeh is one the people who answered a few questions regarding the matter in an interview with Mehr News Agency. When asked about the speculations on the intention behind such a regulation, he said: “we try to avoid any limitation of media and also consider the constitution law its main pillar. We tried to give the government and the culture ministry a supportive role both financially and spiritually.”
He strongly opposed to this idea that the new regulations is meant to impose more pressure on media, saying: “media have all rights to project their criticisms and opinion about various subjects under the Islamic and constitutional law.”
A journalist writing for a reformist newspaper at the political desk has a different idea. He spoke to us under the condition of anonymity and emphasized: “I have a pessimist approach to cultural and media affairs that the government is involved in. I adopted this approach in the last 7 years, watching the government imposing more and more pressure on any field that it became involved in.”
This journalist is surprised when he reads Mohsenzadeh’s claims and asks: “why should I get this impression from his claims that ‘the redlines are bolder of criticism are becoming bolder and bolder and the circle of censorship is becoming tighter and tighter every day?”
Imposing Pressure on Media; Yes or No?
On the other hand, the culture ministry elaborates another article of this new system: “based on one the article of Comprehensive System of Media, no body of the government or figures to pressure media or abuse them over publishing or not-publishing any contents. Basically this is a common occurrence in the newsrooms of all newspapers and news agencies; government and non-government figures mostly pressure the media and journalists.
The journalist whom we interviewed says: “It is not all about the government or non-government personalities; however, any organization and institution allow themselves stop the free flow of information in the media. ‘Acting against the National Security’ is the most controversial label that eases any act to pressure media.” He does not change his questioning approach towards the new system and says: “Law is not ruling on the Iranian media. Even if such so-called supportive system is ratified, everyone takes it for granted. They always can come up with various excuses to violate it. Judiciary figures have used their influence to change the title many news pieces. There is no guaranty if other politicians do not abuse their power to change the news.”
Social Networks in Government Bills
According to the officials at the Culture Ministry, the Comprehensive System of Media has a social network section. At the time that most of the social networking websites are blocked inside the country, such a ruling seems to only tighten the limitations and highlight redlines. Hamid Rasayi, a member of the eighth and the ninth parliament said this bill covers many aspects of the media, from websites to blogs, from text messages to even data CDs and DVDs. With the previous background from the police about the social networks; we can come to a negative conclusion about the influence of such a system on the Iranian media. Esmail Ahmadi-Moghaddam, the head of Iran’s law enforcement forces had told ISNA that “Face book and Twitter have gathered the ‘criminals and protesters’ together.”
Ahmadi-Moghaddam called virtual communication a “threat” to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Such approaches from the Iranian officials justify journalists’ sensitivity towards the matter.
Few notes on Comprehensive System of Media
The officials at the Culture Ministry tend to highlight a few positive points at the system and avoid commenting on sensitive factors mentioned in the draft of the system. Pedram Pakayin, head of the domestic media division of the Culture Ministry told IRNA: “the draft of the Comprehensive System of Media obliges all the employers in media to cover sign contracts with their employees and cover their health insurance. If the media is closed down under the order of a trial, all employees must be paid their regular wages until they are hired in a new organization.”
Pakayin says applicants of any permit to open a new magazine, press, or any sort of media must hold a master degree. Applicants of any permit for expertise media must hold a PhD degree. He clarifies that minimum 10 years of experience in managing a media would compensate the lack of degree.
How is Government Bill?
Government’s Comprehensive System of Media must have been presented to the parliament 6 years ago. For some reason it has not been ready yet. The bill has been reviewed in the Culture Ministry and the Government Bills Commission. The Culture Ministry claims it will be presented to the Majlis shortly.
Head of the Legal Office of the Culture Ministry says: “We have reviewed many sections; mainly the definition of media, rights of media, limits of media, causes of media.”
He continues saying: “other topics like punishments, permits, applications for permits, are still being processed.” Majlis is also reviewing a proposal related to this topic. Not much news is broadcast about this proposal.
At the present condition we cannot judge any of these proposal laws impartially. However, one must remember that democratic laws are ratified under democratic conditions. Here we raise this question: “Is Iran experiencing a democratic condition so that we can expect a democratic law to be ratified in this country?”
2 Forum messages
Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: How is life for Iranian journalists after prison? Does their attitude toward their journalism – the profession that put them in jail – change? Are they more conservative than before? Or bolder?
Khabarnegaran – Niki Azad: He has been put in jail three times for his journalist writing, though he says that jail has not made him feel disappointed with the profession of journalism.