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.
The Downslide of Journalism in Iran16 March 2013
Reported by: Saba Etemad
Translated by: Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info – Are Iranian journalists working inside the country satisfied with their
wages? Are they covered by social security? Are they entitled to benefits such as mortgage loans and allowances? Is there a fund to support journalists?
The answers to these questions are not alike for all journalists. In truth, the journalists working for state-run or government-owned media are not on a par with those working for private and independent media. Journalists and reporters at Keyhan, Ettelaat, Hamshahri and Jam-e-Jam newspapers are seen as employees who are entitled to social security, mortgage loans, additional benefits for their academic degrees, working experience and position.
Then again, there exists a quite larger group comprising an undetermined number of journalists who work for non-state, independent media. They would shake their heads and utter a big ‘no’ to these kinds of questions. Many of them have not only been deprived of social security, but they have repeatedly tasted the bitterness of their newspapers being banned one after the other. Most of them believe that they live with a lack of job security, being constantly forced to change the media they work for once it is banned.
There are now over 6000 journalists inside Iran, according to a recent study published by a university professor in communications. However, there is no official figure regarding the number of active journalists inside the country, classification of the type of media they work for, or their average salary. To make a general understanding of the wages of journalists working for independent media, I have to ask them personally.
When asked what your salary is as a full-time journalist, an experienced journalist who has been working for reformist media for years answers “now I work for two papers, each giving me about 600,000 tomans (about $170) per month. I also work for other magazines as a freelance writer. I don’t say a no to any suggestion, because I count on every 30,000 or 40,000 tomans [$10] that I can earn from freelancing, helping me a bit in living expenses.”
When I ask other full-time journalists at reformist media, including Etemaad, Bahar, Shargh, Donya-ye Eghtesad dailies and Kar va Tejarat and Setareh-ye Sobh weeklies, about their monthly salary, it comes out that their salary does not usually depend on their working experience or academic degree, typically varying from 450,000 to 750,000 tomans per month. The freelancing rates for every magazine and newspaper are between 50,000 and 70,000 tomans per page – an amount which has remained almost unchanged for over a decade despite the country’s soaring inflation.
In the meantime, there is a rising trend of advertising within news content by journalists to meet their living expense. These journalists who are labelled as ‘gift-takers’ within the community itself accept handouts for publishing materials in favor of businesses, individuals or organizations. “The number of journalists who work in the field of business and economy but are not prone to accepting handouts and bribes is small”, says a financial journalist working at Donya-ye-Eghtesad newspaper. These ‘gift-takers’ usually sniff around to find about press conferences, symposiums or other events that provide reporters with free gifts.
While the Committee to Protect Journalists has recently announced the average salary of journalists in the world to be between $30,000 to 58,000, such figures are an unbelievable dream for Iranian journalists.
The tough financial situation has made journalists to replicate several similar news off a single event. “When I go to a press conference, I try to gather the news feed for several days after. If there are different speakers, I make a separate news out of everyone’s speech. Press releases of public relations make up my news stories. I also interview a number of governmental or nongovernmental officials. Those are the ways that I can meet the minimum limit of stories I have a write in a month,” says a reporter at ISNA news agency.
After several years in the job, he feels restless, but has no other way. He has to keep on this way to survive. The level of news production stays very low in Iranian news agencies. In most cases, the news agencies follow and copy contents from each other.
Job insecurity is one of the main concerns of Iranian journalists. In addition, the mass arrest of journalists and inclusion of their names in a blacklist prepared by intelligence agencies make them to publish their articles under pseudonyms. “In this situation, I prefer to write under pseudonym, as journalists are the most vulnerable in every political conflicts. The arrest of journalists the night before the 2009 presidential election and the recent detention of journalists on the eve of the upcoming presidential election have convinced me to act discreetly.
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.