1 آذر 1391

Review of 19th Press Exhibit; Lines between insiders, outsiders

Security presence; Absence of Independent newspapers

21 November 2012

Reported by Saba Etemad

Translated by Rose Arjmand

Khabarnegaran.info-Tehran’s Grand Prayer Grounds played host to the 19th International Exhibition of Press and News Agencies from October 28 to November 3. The exhibit served as a venue to various daily and periodical magazines and papers.

However, the exhibit was not only a platform for media. A long queue in a corner of the Grand Payer Ground attracts my attention. The exhibit had been offering a special voucher. Visitors could buy one 5-dollar voucher for 50 cents. Students had a double offer and could buy two of those 5-dollar vouchers.

Two ladies in black chadors were sitting at a desk to give gentle warnings to women to correct their hijab. I suspect if the warnings are gentle only because the next round of the presidential elections is close.

The arrangement of the stands is worth noting especially when visitors find the stands of the conservative press and media like Iran, Jam-e Jam, Kayhan, Mehr News, Fars News and ISNA in the main hall of the exhibit. After a long search, I finally found Etemad, Arman, and Maghreb newspapers in derived corridors and far from the main hall. A visitor says: “the press affiliated to the government and conservative parties gained the best spots in the exhibit. On the other hand the press that criticizes the government, even slightly, got stands at random spots. They were even discriminating on allotting stands.” Apart from discrimination, the CCTVs also make visitors feel uncomfortable. A few people are taking photos from the visitors under the name of photojournalists. The security even arrested a few people under the suspicion of being involved in political activities.

The stand of a building maintenance and facilities is located amongst the stands of the news agencies. Apart being randomly located, it is opposite the Basij stand, which is decorated with the yellow flag of Hezbollah.

Modern, Chic but Cold and Soulless

A veteran reformist journalist says: “Jam News is a new name to me. They have a chic stand and are distributing generous gifts among visitor lavishly. I heard they got their budget from a project called ‘Fighting the Soft War’.”

“Fighting the Soft War” is a title that the government has given to a project to confront the many websites run by opposition parties or critics of the government. Such atmosphere is seen in many conservative news agencies, which were decorated by quotes from Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Absence of Journalists

The motto of this year exhibit is “Media, Honest Word, Fair View.” But I feel the absence of the reporters from reformist media. Some of them are in prison since the controversial election in 2009; a few of them are unemployed at home; a group of them left the country. I can feel their absence in an event that was supposed to be for them not the government.

A booklet in glossy paper is distributed among the visitors for free. The booklet had figures and was completed by graphs and tables showing the number of newspapers and news agencies that received their permit during Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s presidency. However, creators of the booklet did not mention the number of imprisoned journalists since 2009, or the number of newspapers that were closed down since then.

In the stand of Iran Newspaper, a video of Javnfekr was shown. Ali Akbar Javanfekr was the presidential advisor for press affairs and also the Managing-Director of IRNA who was arrested for “insulting Ayatollah Khamenei.” In his video he insists that he did not offended the leader.

From inflation to Facebook

Shamseddin Hosseini, Minister of Economic Affairs and Finance, visited the exhibit and journalists asked him about the inflation and the fall of rials compared to dollars. He stated: “let people decide if the dramatic drop of rial value is due the government or sanction.” Following his comment a number of the visitors started telling the minister about the financial problems that his family is tolerating due to the inflation quite loudly.

Fars News Agency was among the lucky stand holders that enjoy unfiltered internet. A filmmaker explains that he “literally insulted Ahmadinejad” in his film and “posted it on Facebook and YouTube.” The semi-state run news agency launched a video conference inviting celebrities. A number of actors implied that did not have an account in Facebook or any other online social networks.

Student magazine in shadow

The second floor was the venue for student magazines. They did not receive much publicity and as a consequence they did not receive many visitors. Students of Ahwaz Southwest Iran filled their stand with crumpled up newspapers. The stand was decorated with empty seats. The crinkled decoration was adopted as a sign of protest to the isolated choice of location for them.

Student of Tabriz University, located in East Azerbaijan Province, say: “except for random visitors who are wandering around our floor, the rest of the visitors do not even know that we are based here.” The international magazines also do not enjoy a better situation. No one knows they are even invited.

Independent press deals with newsprint crisis

Jomhouri-e Eslami Newspaper (Islamic Republic Newspaper) issued a formal statement of complaint and mounted it in its stand for the public to view. The statement reads: “we apologize that we cannot afford to offer the Jomhouri-e Eslami Newspaper to you like before. Unfortunately the Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry refuses to help us to resolve the newsprint crisis. So the problem stays here unsolved.”

A representative of Jomhouri-e Eslami Newspaper told Khabarnegaran.info: “Jomhouri-e Eslami had to reduce the number of its total pages from 16 pages to 12 to keep on printing. It was not enough. We reduced the number from 12 to 8 pages now. Independent papers are not affiliated to any organizations and they do not receive any support from anywhere. They suffer the most.”

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