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.
Story of unemployed journalists in Iran28 August 2012
Reported by Niki Azad
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info-Having women in management is one of the key issues that must be studied closely. The number of women managers and women editors in chief could be a good topic to study. It is not really difficult to get into the details of the depressing share of women in media management in Iran. Iranian independent journalists are under extra pressure these days. Both employed and unemployed journalists, who live their lives in a journalistic theme, have always lived with the thought of newsrooms and newspapers in the back of their head.
Those who are writing for newspapers, tolerate censorship and limitations. Censorship is applied before they even start writing. They cannot even write about citizens’ daily life. Khabarnegaran.info has decided to cover such pressures. The reporter interviewed journalists who are unemployed at the moment or are not writing regularly. We want to find out how they live their lives. How do they cope with financial and psychological pressure following unemployment? Have they defined a new job for themselves? Our interviewees agreed to answer our question under the condition of anonymity.
Journalists who are doing journalism are unemployed We have interviewed a veteran journalist, who worked in cultural heritage and humanitarian desks. She has not worked in any newspapers after the disputed presidential election in 2009. Still she introduces herself as an unemployed journalist. She says: “I am a journalist and researcher. If anyone asks me what I do, I reply saying I am a journalist. If they ask where I work, I reply saying I am unemployed for now. The truth is that after a while this job creates journalism schema. Such a person never finds herself employed if she doesn’t write.”
She mentions the extra economic pressure on journalists: “I have written books to evade the economic and psychological pressure of unemployment. Journalists are alive for journalism not newspapers.”
Journalism social responsibility
This veteran journalist is not much worried about her economic burden as she worries about her social responsibility. She adds: “I do my best to keep my journalistic mindset. We can still write series of report and publish them later. No one knows how the situation will be in 5 years.” She states: “Parallel to my reporting, I analyze data. I believe data analysis allows me to leave some room for social pathology in future. I don’t find the current situation of the country beneficial of journalism. I believe journalism in these days is not on a progressive trend. I think working in this field bounces you backwards.”
Network Journalism in Iran
This journalist does not approve the current ambiance of journalism in the country. She states: “the first reason why journalist are unemployed is that there is no newspaper to work for. And the second reason would be the fact that journalism has become a type of network journalism in Iran. A circle of people issues five magazines at the same time. They work as a team and do not accept new members. They earn load of money by this tactic. So it leaves us with many unemployed journalists. The unemployed journalists are either working as public relations staff or are working on research programs. Some left the field absolutely. It is not really difficult to become a journalist. But staying journalist is the important deal.”
Journalist who opened a café
In report we talk to another journalist who writes as a freelancer for reformist newspapers of Shargh and Etemad once in a while. He evaluated his financial status and chose to quit his job as a fulltime journalist. However, he could leave journalism forever. He says: “I distanced myself from journalism for various reasons. Today I work on historical and research projects. Many journalists chose to work for PRs and some chose to open a café or run a restaurant.” This journalist believes he earns more money now: “today journalism is a low-paid job. Even editors in chief are not earning much. When the situation is better and more professional, I like to return to journalism as a fulltime writer.”
Tolerating unemployment is difficult
I talked to another journalist. She describes the current situation of unemployment especially not having insurance.
She says: “years of experience and talent is going to waste. We are not young forever; it is scary to look at the vague future. Due to my experience I cannot apply for a large variety of jobs. Those jobs that I can apply for jobs are under sever governmental redlines or the government does not allot budget to them at all.”
She adds: “I can manage social research programs. Unfortunately, they receive their budgets from mafia-like organizations. They do not let everyone in. They just accept people of their own circle in their projects. With the newspapers being closed down, I am under much financial pressure. Writing as a freelancer does not help me out either. Six years ago newspapers paid 40 dollars for a one-page article. Today, despite 100 percent inflation, the freelance payment is almost the same.”
She mentions another factor as well: “freelancing journalism is not as satisfying as newsroom journalism. Working apart from the teams is disappointing. If there were enough independent newspaper, I would not have such problems. I don’t want to work for newspapers that are affiliated to various organizations.”
Iranian independent journalists are tolerating extra pressure and limitations. Most of them hope things would change in their favor and they hope to return to independent and free newspapers. They live with journalism not newspapers.
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.