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.
Journalist tells about emotional distress in and after jail19 May 2015
Translated by:Mehrdad Safa
Khabarnegaran.info-Niki Azad: This time, Masoud Lavasani tells about his days of and after being in prison, his solitary confinement, and interrogations has impacted his life. He believes that journalists have to deal with a psychological crisis after jail. Lavasani used to write for Fars and Mehr news agencies, and a number of reformist and moderate dailies such as Hamshahri, Aftab Yazd, Etemad, Shargh, Hamshahri and Kargozaran.
How long had you been in prison?
Let me tell you something first. I had written parts of my time in prison. Now I want to distance away from these things and put myself as the object of these accounts. Still I feel a bit ashamed when I talked about those times.
Well, ashamed… because when for some time you talk with the others about things you had seen in prison. But after some times, when you’re only with yourself, you’ll notice that you’re nothing compared with many other things. When Ahmad Zeydabadi isn’t allowed to talk, it’s ridiculous, isn’t it? I don’t know, people feel ashamed.
How did you get detention?
The Revolutionary Guards detained me on September 16, 2009. The interrogations began the very first midnight in Detention Center 2 Alef of the Revolutionary Guards. I got detention for two reasons, writing and publishing reports in Persian websites, and filming and shooting pictures of street protests after the 2009 presidential elections. During a few interrogations, the managing editor of Fars News Agency, which I had been fired from in early 2009, was also present.
I was also charged with why I had been recommended by Iranian Journalists Association to a trip at the invitation of the European Council – which I never went. Interrogators insisted that Iranian Journalists Associations sent members to learn how to topple the government. Another story that surfaced there was I getting the sack from Mehr News Agency for publishing a news story on Leader’s [Ali Khamenei] meeting with university deans, which was later censored by the news agency.
How did prison impact your view on journalism?
It wasn’t just prison. The whole experience of 2009 [the post-election protests] and getting involved in the Green Movement was already enough to change my attitude toward my career and life. During my time in prison, I met the most esteemed journalists of Iran.
I just wonder whether you became more determined at or disappointed with being a journalist after jail.
Undoubtedly I became more determined. When I was notified about the court ruling that included a prison term and a ban from journalism profession, I was feeling worse about being banned. On the other hand, I was happy that I had been on the right track until then, making them censor my articles. This made me more determined.
Did you write letters or feature stories in prison?
Because I was banned from journalism work by court for 10 years, I couldn’t write anything with my byline. I wrote two book reviews and a movie review for Hamshahri under a pseudonym. But I wrote many letters, including open ones, when I was in prison. There I was also able to do some long interviews with prisoners belonging to different groups and factions. I am now making a book out of these interviews. This cost me lots of time and energy, because I couldn’t record their voices, so I had to write down questions and answers manually in bulk. It was very difficult to take all these out of prison with myself.
Could you please explain what changed after prison?
If I want to be specific, I have to admit that prison was an opportunity for me to have a critical look into my ten years of journalism career. Well, I had my mistakes just as anybody else. Also I found out that I can’t be both a journalist and activist at the same time.
You left the country after prison. How did your time in jail drive you to make this decision?
I didn’t leave the country immediately after prison or for my jail experience. It took me two years, after facing a series of happenings, including the detention of my wife in the winter of 2011 (almost a couple of months after I was freed). On February 1, 2012, I was charged with working with foreign-based media. Once again, I got detention in March 24, 2012. All these had made life hard for me and my wife. When they ordered my arrest, I was in hideout in different cities of Iran, and eventually left the country.
How do you see the current trend of journalism in Iran?
Actually, after the post-election protests, I noticed that many media managers had become more conservative. I had to write under a pseudonym for many newspapers. When I was freed from prison, it wasn’t easy for me to get a job. I lost many previous jobs. I still don’t know whether this was out of their fear and cautiousness or external pressure [by the government or state authorities].
So there was still much pressure on you after prison, wasn’t it?
Yes, I had some mental health problems after prison, which in my opinion must be taken into consideration about people freed from jail.
So how did you manage to free yourself from these pressure?
When I was locked up in Detention Center 2 Alef of the Revolutionary Guards, I happened to have five points at some points, leaving many side effects on me afterward. When I went to Turkey, the Turkish Human Rights Organization, where there are torture experts present. They started treating me. Now I can say for sure that I’m in a much better condition.
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.