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.
Stories of journalists under pennames
Pennames and new identities grow fast in Iran14 September 2012
Reported by Sara Mohseni
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info-Iranian journalists might write under their real names but mostly they choose to write under a pen-names. Some even have numerous pen-names. Basically, it is an odd question to ask the Iranian journalists if they have a pen-name.
They might use their pen-names more often than their real name and gain much fame under the pen-name. Ali-Akbar Dehkhoda named himself Dakho in Charand Parand (Fiddle-Faddle) column. Mohammad Mosoud mostly wrote under M. M. Dahati (M. M. Villager). Rahman Hatefi wrote his political artciles under the penname of Heidar Mehregan. We have interviewed a few journalists who have been writing under pen names.
I’ve hidden my news and professional ID
A journalist told us: “following the controversial presidential election in 2009 in Iran, I started writing for opposition news websites and then I chose a penname for the first time in ten years. I only meant to help my country in the chaotic situation to spread information. I did not look at it as a duty.”
However, this journalist chose to continue writing under a penname after the unrest in Iran. She says: “I did not want to quit my job as a journalist and I could not write under my real name either. I chose to keep writing in a news website affiliated to the Green Movement. And also I wanted to avoid any contact with the intelligence ministry. A penname was a good option considering that it would give me a pseudo identity so that my reader could follow my articles in future.
She goes on to add: “it is really brutal to stop writing under your own name. A few of my articles are not even against the government policy still were considered to fit in the censorship circle. So I keep writing under a penname and I am grateful that gained a new identity via this penname. I evaded security complications and stayed journalist under my penname. I am sick of this situation but I have no other choice either.”
I wrote my best reports under penname
The reporter interviewed another journalist to hear his narrative of pennames. This journalist, who has been arrested before for journalism, says: “I picked up a penname a few weeks after the election. I still was working under my real name because the news website that I was working for was not blocked by the government. It was still legal to work for such news websites.”
He states: “I am a journalist and never dealt with pennames or pseudonyms. I did not understand what security concerns meant. I thought having a penname is enough. When I was arrested and the interrogator called me by penname, I reviewed all have written in my head in cold sweat.”
He recalls: “everything has changed after I was released. I wanted to be a journalist and could not give up because I was arrested. Some people choose to transfer their identity to their penname and they do it successfully. But I lost my identity in the middle of numerous pennames that I picked up for various subjects. I have more than a dozen pennames. This year I published a handful of articles in newspapers under my real name. You have no idea how joyful it was to see my real name next to an article that I wrote. Still, I wrote the best reports of my entire career under my pennames.”
Pennames for breadwinning
Some journalists are embarrassed to publish their names in some news agencies or websites. A journalist told us: “in a few occasions I wrote articles for some specific news agencies or websites that are not professional. I feel embarrassed to tell my colleagues and friends that I was working with those websites. So I picked up a penname to protect my grace.”
He states: “I always felt guilty working for them; so I chose humanitarian topics that did not violate my political perspective either. They paid me well and on time. I cannot live my life with less than 500 dollars a month. It was a good source to earn money and I hid my real identity too.
Realer image under pennames
These were a few narratives from journalists, who write under pennames. They hide their real identity for a personal reason. Still, it is not the full image of what is going on. Censorship and duplication of a subject are mentioned as other reasons why journalists choose pennames. A journalist says he has to write about a few humanitarian topics every day. It means he has been trapped in duplication; what he does is that he organizes the articles in two groups of first grade and second grade articles. He publishes the second grade articles under his penname.
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.