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: Reporting facts or defending power institutions?26 September 2013
Translated by:Mehrdad Safa
Khabarnegaran.info-Saba Etemad: Should those journalists and media who supported the winning presidential candidate become his lawyer afterwards? To what extent are they entitled to defend the government and power institutions?
How far has the recent presidential election overshadowed journalistic trends in Iran? Is it convincing to close eyes to certain reports on the grounds that it is not the right time to criticize the government? We interviewed three journalists, two of them living in Iran and the other in France, to answer these questions.
Reformist journalists opt for ‘reformist-like’ criticism Criticizing the government with a reformist approach – that is the expression that self-called reformist journalist Forouzan Asef Nakhai uses to describe the current trend of journalism in reformist media. “Most reformist journalists do not support the circles in power. Rather, they do not want democracy to come with foreign invasion,” says Nakhai.
Nakhai points out that this trend does not mean ‘a mere attempt to seize political power.’
Reformist journalists agreed to back President Rouhani because of his plans, adds Nakhai. “If Rouhani fails to fulfill his promises, reformists first try to show the barriers, and then if Rouhani’s government is subject to blame, they will criticize.”
‘Overjoyed’ with interviewing a minister
However, a freelance journalist who writes for reformist newspapers in Tehran and wants to remain anonymous, believes that this reformist-like approach is rather interpreted as a solid support for the government.
“A reporter of a reformist weekly magazine interviewed one of Rouhani’s ministers. Openly boasting of this interview, the lead of the interview was written in a way that you could easily see how extremely he is fond of this government authority,” he says.
“Isn’t it beneath a journalist’s dignity to feel this much overjoyed with his interview and express it with a biased lead?” he asks rhetorically.
Journalists or party members: boycotting ‘disloyal’ city council members The border between journalism and political activity has been also blurred. Following the controversial mayor election in the city council, tensions has grown that does not concern journalists that should place call of conscience above everything else.
“In the process of electing the mayor, two reformist members of the city council did not vote for the reformist candidate. Some reformist journalists have proposed to boycott these two individuals in their media,” says the freelancer working for Tehran-based reformist newspapers. “But does that really concern a journalist?”
Isn’t it the right time to criticize?
“Since Rouhani was elected as the president, a kind of ‘heaven everywhere’ viewpoint has prevailed, while nothing practical has happened,” says Ayda Ghajar, a journalist working for France-based Persian-language news website Rooz Online.
“If a journalist does not perform his or her duty and forgets to write on the social, economic and cultural problems that pervades their society, it will lead to dementia,” she adds.
Appointing Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who is implicated in the 1988 Massacre of Iranian Prisoners, as the Minister of Justice is one of the matters that Ghajar is concerned to report.
“If we decide not to talk about things like this out of collective or selfish interests and say that ‘it’s not the right time’, well, then never it will be, because we are always having crisis,” says Ghajar, who has been invited to keep a dignified silence on several occasions in the shadow of ‘not criticizing the government’.
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.