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 after prison; More independence, less workplace28 May 2013
Reported by Niki Azad
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info – How do Iranian journalists deal with journalism after they are released from prisons? How does imprisonment affect their views as journalists? Does it make them conservative or courageous? Do prisons change their perspectives as journalists? Khabarnegaran.info asked these questions from journalists who were recently released from prisons.
Independent Journalists Ignore
Imprisonment of Iranian journalists has become repetitious news that leaves almost no one ignorant about it. In the last winter 17 journalists were arrested in a matter of a few days. Many of these journalists are imprisoned and interrogated under media silence.
A journalist who have released from a prison after four years told us: “before the prison, most of the Iranian journalists move on a fast track. We used to cover almost any news and such an approach had a negative impact on professional journalism. I must of course say that we were obliged to work under certain circumstances. We did not spend much time reading news and book. Prison was a good chance to think about myself.”
He adds: “I released that I had a serious weakness in journalism. There are various approaches to journalism, and different angles of this field have always been overshadows by our haste in covering almost any news.”
We Are to Blame for People’s Indifference
Several journalists complain about people’s indifference to what they write and consequently people’s indifference to social issues. The Iranian journalist continues: “as I look back, I can firmly say the mistakes we made caused the people’s indifference. During my term in prison I learned about many political matters that I would never even think about them or I was aware that our country has such problems. Having a close look at the prisoners’ case taught me that our activists are fighting for so many issues that don’t even receive much publicity.” He states: “to me, it meant that we were focusing on certain topics thinking that they were people’s concerns. However, it seems they weren’t.”
More Independence, Less Opportunities
Did the prison pressure on journalists ever make you quit your career? Did prison open a new angle into journalism for you? He says: “prison changed my approach. But it doesn’t mean that I have become a conservative man. It means that I value professionalism and independence much more. I now tend to see the issues independent from political tendencies. It is our job to show a clear picture of the problems to people.”
He says: “there are very few job opportunities at the moment. The newspaper that are currently printed in the country are either not interested in hiring me with such prison background or I’m not interested in writing their approved style. I can say my job opportunity is almost zero. I like to write as a field journalist or a researcher, but I don’t see much of a chance to write in this style.”
Deep Insight of Life
The journalist, who wishes to remain unnamed, told Khabarnegaran.info: “prison gave me a chance to have a deeper look at the politics, economic, culture and society of my country. I had a chance to read more books. I read more about journalism and learned how to write professionally. I’m sure I will distance myself from political parties as much as I can for the rest of my career life.”
“No one can ignore the negative impacts of prisons. Solitary confinement and never ending interrogations are never ignoble. But I found enough time to watch films and read novels, things that do not have much room in many journalists’ lives.
Looking for safe sidelines
A couple of journalists, who do not have a long-term imprisonment in their background, have a slightly different approach. They spent a few months in security prisons.
One of these journalists says: “spending much time in prison taught that political parties are looking for their own benefit and they are using journalists as means to reach their goal. Anytime there is a political change in the country, journalists are the first group to pay the price and be arrested. Anytime security forces want to create an atmosphere of fear and fright, they arrest journalists. I thought I would never go back to journalism after prison, but I couldn’t stop myself from working in this field. I lost my job in the newspaper I used to work for. I found a job a magazine. It is not exactly what I used to do. But it is a safe sideline for now.”
Prison Made Me Stronger
Another journalist tells Khabarnegaran.info that she believes the prison did not change her approach to her career as a journalist: “many people told me to consider the red-lines in my writing. But I cannot.
Because the red-lines become bold or thin everyday according to interrogators’ taste. I believe in journalism based on moral charters. The moral charter is shaped in my mind and I look for new subjects within the framework. After my term in prison, the only that changed in me was my distance from political parties. I’m distancing myself from any political affiliations only because I find it far from journalism ethics.” “Of course I must say, prison made me stronger and taught me how to retreat but be a journalist. Immediately after my release from the prison, I receive many offers to work. They were the exact type of journalism I was used to, but they were a type of journalism among many types we have out there.”
“I might not be writing in the same style I used to, but I don’t call myself conservative. I think I’m mentally obsessed with words now,” she concludes
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.