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 hardships in Isfahan: Uncertain future and climate of fear30 March 2015
Translated by:Mehrdad Safa
Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: Isfahan – an ancient city in central Iran – has a long tradition of newspapers. The first newspaper, Farhang, was published about 136 years ago on April 24, 1879 at the behest of Isfahan ruler Zell-e Sultan. Today, several newspapers, most notably Isfahan-e Ziba (owned by Isfahan Municipality) and Nasl-e Farda, and a few weekly magazines are published in Isfahan.
Farid Salavati started his career as a journalist at Navid Isfahan weekly magazine, where his father was the managing director. He freelanced for Ettelaat, reformist Mardom Salari and later-banned Salam daily newspapers. He is now the Vice-President of Isfahan Journalists Association, one of the few remaining independent journalist associations in the country.
Q: Tell us about your experience at Navid Isfahan weekly.
A: The weekly magazine was mostly critical of things that were happening. My father’s editorials often created controversy in the society. Although local, the weekly used to have a vast readership throughout the country. After the house arrest of Ayatollah Montazeri and later ban on his public image, the magazine was the only publication to disseminate his ideas and publish his photos.
Q: When was Isfahan Journalist Association founded?
A: The association was founded 15 years ago. The elections are held every three years. One of the current problems of the association is the lack of a building. Formerly, the building was the house of veteran journalist Amir Gholi, who had endowed (religious waqf) the building for this reason. Unfortunately, the building has been confiscated by some people who belong to a certain political organization. We haven’t been able to reclaim the building yet.
Q: You mean the association doesn’t have a building now? So where do the members assemble?
A: Unfortunately, we don’t have a building, and we are following our activities at the office of one of the members.
Q: How many members does the association have? Is every journalist, with any political belief, allowed to join?
A: About 200 members. Our view is more like reformist. So journalists affiliated with fundamentalist organizations are not interested to join.
Q: There’s an organization in many cities called the House of Press. What’s the difference between Houses of Press and Journalists Associations?
A: Houses of Press are mainly driven by political motives. Journalists Associations, however, are more like trade unions. Most of the members of Journalists Associations hold reformist views and believe in independent journalism from the ruling power. But the members of Houses of Press are mostly affiliated with the conservative right.
Q: What difficulties are faced by journalists in the absence of independent trade unions for journalists?
A: Being a journalist is itself a problem when our society still doesn’t have support structures for the press. There was once a trade union for journalists – Iranian Journalists Association – but when the association wanted to defend the rights of journalists, certain people closed it down. In the third world countries, the press and journalists do not live or work in a favorable situation.
Q: What difficulties are faced by Journalist Associations in Iran?
A: There are many which is not only limited to Journalist Associations. All trade unions do not have a strong position in our society.
Q: What are the major hardships that journalists face today in Isfahan?
A: Most importantly, journalists fear of talking fearlessly. A journalist in our city has an uncertain future ahead of themselves. Most headlines are imitative and follow the same style. So people are not interested to read the press. They prefer to read online. Of course this isn’t just about Isfahan but all over Iran.
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.