8 اسفند 1392

Did Rouhani have any right to choose interviewer?

27 February 2014

ranslated by:Mehrdad Safa

Khabarnegaran.info-Sogand Serafat:President Hassan Rouhani’s recent interview with state TV became controversial when it was not broadcast at the scheduled time due to a dispute between presidential media team and the state-owned television.

Rouhani insisted on the presence of Sonia Pouryamin as another interviewer as well as IRIB reporter Mohammad Kazem Rouhaninejad. His request was however strongly turned down by IRIB Director Chief Ezzatollah Zarghami, who asserted that the President cannot choose the interviewer.

Rouhani however made no concession, stressing that there will be no interview otherwise. In the end, Zarghami agreed to his terms that Pouryamin can sit facing the President across the table as the second interviewer.

Media professionals have differing views about this row. Some treat it as unimportant, while some others see it as a politically-motivated issue. Some believe Zarghami had rights on his side, while others believe that Rouhani was right.

Veteran journalist Mohammad Heydari, formerly an assistant to Ettelaat daily’s editor-in-chief Gholam Hossein Salehyar before the 1979 Revolution, sees the row between Zarghami and Rouhani a political one.

“What we saw was a completely political game. Every interviewee has the right to refuse being interviewed by a certain individual. Its political weight was much greater than its media influence,” says Heydari. Radio Farda’s reporter Roozbeh Bolhari believes that the row between the President and IRIB Director cannot undermine the independence of media in Iran, because Iranian media, according to human rights organizations and journalist rights advocates, had already proved to lack independence.

Khodnevis editor-in-chief and cartoonist Nikahang Kosar states that practices of interviewing with senior officials is different in world countries. “In the United States, Fox News, which is against democrats, liberals and thus the current President, sends its reporter Bill O’Reilly to interview with the President.”

“Or it is possible that a British state-owned news network arrange an interview with the Prime Minister conducted by a reporter that is rather critical, despite the fact that the media is sponsored by the government,” Nikahang explains.

“But in a country like Iran,” Nikahang notes, “whose media do not have the structure of independent and professional ones, we see different practices. If the government is in good terms with IRIB, the state-owned television will choose a reporter that is sympathetic with the government.”

Veteran journalist Minoo Badiee, a former journalist at Kayhan daily before the 1979 revolution, believes that visual media is not a professional media in Iran. “It is rather a tribune for broadcasting propaganda where state officials can say whatever they want.”

Badiee sees Rouhani’s insistence on Pouryamin’s presence at the interview as a mistake. “In fact, Mr. Rouhani has better to introduce a reformist journalist to the television insterad of Ms. Pouryamin. He basically showed that he is not willing to make concession to true journalists.”

“Rouahni showed,” Badiee stresses, “that he does not have trust in true reporters and does not want to listen to people’s questions as asked by these journalists.”

Levanger-Avisa’s editor-in-chief Roger Rein says that in most democratic states, none of state officials are entitled to choose the interviewer for an interview with the state television or radio. “For example, in Norway, if the state TV decides to interview with the Prime Minister, the Prime Minister can only ask about the name of interviewer. The interviewer is only determined by program director, not by the Prime Minister.

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