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.
Journalism; Main or Second Job13 October 2012
Reported by Sara Mohseni
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info-It does not matter if you graduated from a media school or a medical school; newsroom fever attracts you to journalism. However, the fever does not guarantee a smooth career in this field. Interesting topics seem to cross redlines and many censoring policies seem to make your job more difficult than simple essay writing. Iranian journalists have to deal with serious issues to make it through writing a piece of news.
Lack of job security and insurance, frequent shutdowns, being deprived from basic rights like unemployment benefit, economical pressure and low payment for long hours are only a part of the picture. Having a look at the chaotic picture, one may raise a question: is journalism one’s main job or their second job?
The first job under some conditions
We went to a newsroom of a newspaper. We want to have a clear picture what journalists are doing. Do they feel devoted to journalism as their main career or is it a complementary job for them? A journalist at one of the reformist newspapers told Khabaranegaran.info: “journalist is my first and last job. I do not have any other skills and I cannot get any other jobs at any other places.” He also finds faults with journalism as his main career saying: “my payment is not enough to cover my expenses. Fortunately, I’m single and do not have as many financial problems as others.”
He went on to add: “my colleagues who are married have not quit their job only because they love their job. Otherwise journalism does not provide much income for them. For such people, journalism is their second job and they mostly write as freelancers. Although freelancing does not bring much of earning, people do not quit journalism only and only because they love their career.”
Do not such approaches to journalism result in letdown in this career? Isn’t the dual-career approach to journalism and unprofessional approach? Another journalist told Khabarnegaran.info: “there two factors that violate the esteem of this career. Firstly, having two jobs brings journalism out of its professional framework. Secondly having dual career gives money a higher priority. If someone is not paid enough, he feels the need to have a second job to cover his basic expenses. Unfortunately, journalism is not a well-paid profession and in some cases it is not seen as a profession. That should not a surprise that journalism is considered as the second job for many people.
She opens another category for journalists that have dual career saying: “such letdown of having dual career led to a point that people from random careers can choose journalism as their second job. At the same time professional journalists are quitting their jobs because of its low income. Such process leads to lower quality of journalism in the country.”
Local journalism, crawling on minefield
Problems and obstacle that journalists based in the capital city experience led too many of them to quit their jobs as journalists. How is life treating journalists in other cities?
Local media receive less financial supports. Smaller cities do not have fix budget and mostly cover their journalists’ salary through advertisements. It means those journalists must help their newspapers to earn their salary through sponsors. At the end of the day they receive low salaries and do not enjoy insurance. And those who have insurance cannot even afford their own share of the plan.
Hamid Mafi is a journalist based in Qazvin. He told Khabarnegaran.info: “local journalists tolerate more problems than journalists based in Tehran. They have to bear the problems which are common in Iranian journalism and also they have to bear extra pressure special to their region.” His simile is quite interesting to mention: “if journalism in Iran is similar to walking in a minefield; local journalism is like crawling in a minefield.” He states: “managers of local media find this field as a business and political campaign. They believe they can achieve higher positions or bonuses through their local media. They might adopt some policies behind the curtains and at the end of the day newsroom staffs fall victim of such policies.”
Mafi says: “some of the managers at the local media rather to achieve better relations with high ranking officials in the government so that they can have access to some funds. At this case also, journalists fall victim. They cannot report the clear picture of the truth.”
Many journalists love their job and stay in this field. But how long can they tolerate the pressure imposed on journalism in Iran? Maybe that is the reason why after a while many journalists start asking themselves if journalism is meant to be their main job or should it be their second job?
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.