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.
Journalists get the sack when assert their rights28 February 2014
Translated by:Mehrdad Safa
Khabarnegaran.info-Sogand Serafat: Iranian journalists write much about short-term employment contracts, absence of labor unions, an irresponsible administration and press censorship. Ironically, they themselves are the victims of these violations at work.
Even in state-owned press, many journalists work under a short-term employment contract. Many are not covered by social insurance for which employers are totally responsible. Many work for the lowest wages, sometimes below the minimum wage.
As the law stands, employers are obliged to pay for 27 percent of monthly insurance payment. On the pretext of being a high amount to be paid in the loss-making press industry, as claimed by employers, insurance payments of journalist mostly is based on the minimum wage. In some newspapers, employment contracts are exploitative. Now there all permanent staff at Ghanoon daily have paid bonds worth between $5000 and $7000 to the employer.
The Association of Iranian Journalist was closed down in 2009 and has not yet been allowed to reopen despite the absence of court ruling. Before being closed down, the association had more than 4000 members and provided support to unemployed or detained journalists especially after their media was banned. The association also offered educational courses to enhance Iranian journalism, helping to develop an independent, critical journalism. Yet, like many other civil societies and political organizations, the association was closed down a few months after the 2009 presidential election.
Journalists, photographers and satirists in Iran are struggling with the strict government censorship and the changing red lines. These red lines are normally unclear and are redefined and self-imposed by managing directors and editor-in-chiefs, who mainly try to save their outlet in the course of turbulent events.
Isa Saharkhiz, an experienced journalist, answers why journalist write about the rights of others, while they themselves are deprived of them: “Because they will get paid for writing about problems of other people, but they will get the sack if they write about their own problems.”
“In fact, they do not disregard their own problems; they are in close touch with their own problems when inflation and prices are much too high. But they have to get along with the situation. The imbalance between supply and demand in job market also is another reason. The employer has the upper hand and is able to employ low-paid workforce immediately in case of protest,” Saharkhiz explains.
“Currently, most job markets in Iran are in recessionary conditions. Any kind of protest may lead to dismissal,” Saharkhiz adds.
“This is untrue if we assume that the Labor Ministry is an advocate of worker’s rights – and thus journalist’s rights in this case. But even under the most desirable circumstances, a journalist sacked because of claiming his rights will only be entitled to a low amount of unemployment insurance for a limited period,” Saharkhiz, who was also the former general-manager of local press department at the Islamic Guidance and Culture Ministry, says.
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.