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.
Hazards of being a journalist in Iran
Journalism in tight spot29 October 2011
translated by Rose Arzmand:
khabarnegaran.info:-Running in the heat of summer, he is thinking of covering the latest news in the city. A building has collapsed and fallen into a huge sink hole in Tehran. He must take a cab from the office of his newspaper in northern Tehran to arrive to the scene of the accident in southern Tehran. He must see the details for himself and interview witnesses and any passerby. He keeps looking at his watch, keeps checking his phone, and keeps thinking about his report. He hires a motorcycle to arrive to the scene as soon as possible. “This is just the tip of an iceberg,” an Iranian journalist said. “Reporters must show up at the scene by themselves. I hired a cab for a couple of reports and interviews, but the employer did not cover these expenses.” This journalist says now he has to leave his office a few hours earlier so that he can use public transport to go to his interview appointments in order to save some money.
He went on to say: “I’ve been working as a journalist for the past 10 years. I always worked for reformist newspapers, except for a short period of time that I worked for a newspaper affiliated with the government in Iran. None of those newspapers, except for the newspaper that was depended on the authority, could provide good service and enough facilities for their staff. We did not even have enough PCs at work. Some journalist had to bring their own laptops to work. However as time passed by, we got used to it.” Employers and newspaper facilities.
In hindsight, we can raise some questions. Why don’t the employers solve these issues? Don’t the journalists talk about their problems to their employers? Are employers so ignorant that they close their eyes on these shortcomings? Are they willing to clear these flaws in the service? A journalist states: “sometimes employers try to solve some issues and make the workplace better for their staff. However, there are situations that the employers told us straight out that we have to deal with the shortcomings. If not, we had to quit our job.”
Journalists cannot go on assignments
Most of the news agencies and newspapers are sent on tours and assignments across the country and around the world to cover various events. Do Iranian journalists enjoy these assignments?
A 27-year-old journalist who is working at a semi-official newspaper elaborates on these limited services offered by the employers. “Since I joined this semi-official newspaper, I can see that everything is better. They hire a cab for me to travel in town or outside the city for my reports. Although I need to receive my editor in chief’s approval, deal with tiresome bureaucracy and sign many papers, I find it worthy of trying.”
She continues: “I tried to convince my editor in chief on numerous occasions that Tehran must not be the centre of attention. Many interesting subjects happen in other cities; unfortunately we do not have enough journalists in other cities to cover those stories. In this case the newspaper is supposed to send a journalist from the capital on an assignment to those cities. But the head of our newspaper says that they are not able to send a journalist on these assignments; so news coverage is mostly done via telephone data gathering and telephone interviews. When I compare my current situation with my past experience in private newspapers, I cannot complain.”
We were happy to have tables and chairs!
An ex-journalist who has chosen a different career states: “honestly, I always worked for reformist newspapers and having a table and a chair as well as a telephone and high-speed internet was enough for us to say that our workplace was a good workplace.” He adds: “we only had access to a limited number of telephone lines which were always busy. A telephone interview which was dependent on our access to telephone lines was one of our biggest worries.”
This journalist, who had been working in this field for about 13 years, stresses: “I worked in newspapers that provided acceptable facilities and services for their staff. But I have to say that mostly they offered little services and low wages.”
“I was keen to write about subjects that were not really related to Iran’s capital, Tehran. I travelled to other cities to cover events. On a couple of occasions the employer covered my expenses; but mostly I had links to other media networks that covered parts of my expenses and I paid the rest of it, myself. I did not have many chances of this sort, but I learned a lot on these assignments.”
Small cities don’t even have offices
A journalist working in a city other than Tehran smiles when we ask about newspaper facilities in his city. “Journalists, who are working in cities other than the capital, do not even have a fixed payment, let alone facilities or payment for assignments.” He has been working in Iran’s northern city of Gorgan, provincial capital of Golestan province. “In the city of Gorgan, the employers do not believe in sending journalists and reporters to events for news coverage. Most of our journalists write their reports based on telephone interviews and telephone data gathering. The place that we call our office is a small flat that is no larger than 60-square metres. All journalists and other staff work in this office. We can conclude our facilities in three sets of PCs, high-speed internet, one telephone line, and a camera. The photojournalist of our newspaper has the priority to use the camera, but we all share the camera if needed.”
He stresses that journalists working for local newspapers do not receive an acceptable salary. “Journalists working in local newspapers are paid around 60 dollars a month. They increase their earnings to 170 dollars a month by receiving commission from advertising sponsors.”
He continues: “In these situations it seems funny to even think about the facilities that local newspapers provide for their journalists. Only the names remained from the local newspapers. In reality, they are closed and even if they work, they only manage to survive.”
Employers treat journalists like seasonal workers
Another journalist, who has been working for an independent newspaper for a while, believes circulating newspapers is gaining monopoly characteristics. “Non-governmental newspapers are in the hands of some particular people and they are managing the newspapers with limited resources. I wonder why they still work. Yet, I have to admit that some of my colleagues are happy to be at work in order to avoid the jobless label.”
She does not seem to be satisfied about the way that employers treat journalists. She criticizes the current situation saying: “I do not understand why an employer lets himself pay journalists late or not regularly. I always objected these situations but most of the Iranian journalists are getting used to late payments. They do not even bother to complain about it anymore.” She went on to say: “some of my colleagues even quit journalism because of these problematic work situations. However, some of my other colleagues, who are passionate about journalism, cope with these difficulties.” She believes being a journalist in Iran is difficult enough, and surviving in this industry is even more difficult.
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