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.
Press Exhibit Leaves Regret of Last Year’s Lost Chance29 November 2011
Translated by Rose Arjmand
Khabarnegaran.info-Another autumn has come and the 18th edition of Tehran International Exhibition of the Press and News Agencies was held. A veteran journalist, who has written for a highly circulated newspaper of Hamshahri, is finding the exhibit not as fruitful as previous editions. He says in a cold voice: “every year we are left with regret of last year’s lost chance.”
It has been around 20 years that Iran’s Exhibition of the Press is held alongside Iran’s Press Festival. Since 1993 Tehran has been playing host to the press exhibit alongside book fair in Mays every years. It was in 2007 that the book fair and the press exhibit were separated. Since then the press exhibit is held independently in autumns.
In the first round of the exhibit since its independence, not very many newspapers and news agencies were working. Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) was the only news agency in Iran and main newspapers were less than ten newspapers. Keyhan (Universe), Ettela’at (Information) Hamshahri (Citizen), Resalat (Prophecy), Jomhoury Eslami (Islamic Republic) and Salam (Salute) newspapers were the main newspapers in 1990s to take part in the press festival.
Although the number of participants was not many, still the exhibit was welcomed pretty well and the number of the visitors was very high. Experts and audience paid special attention to the political and social ambiance of the country; adding university students and people passionate about economics, politics and society, the number people who used to visit the press exhibit was higher than what we witnessed in this year’s exhibit. Such passionate greetings by people reached their peak from years 1197 to 2000 during the presidency tenure of Seyyed Mohammad Khatami.
However, this year the exhibit was held in silence compared to previous years and the presence of media affiliated to the government was the dominant feature of the exhibit. This year edition was not received as warm as the 2009 edition; the year that disputed presidential election was held. One could see it obviously as there were no signs opposition from the news websites that boycotted the 17th edition following year of the 2009 presidential election. The press exhibit can be fully described in two words: decline and regression. Responding to my question about assessment of the exhibit, journalists who participated in the previous edition of the exhibit expressed their dissatisfaction about the quality of the work presented at the exhibit. One of the journalists at society desk even gone farther than criticizing the exhibit and asked: “do they still launch the exhibit?”
He states: “I did not even know the date the 18th exhibit was held. Obviously I did not bother to visit.” I asked another journalist who works for Hamshahri Newspaper and visited the press exhibit for years about the quality of the 18th edition of the exhibit. She answered briefly and to the point: “press exhibit leaves regret of last year’s lost chance.”
Veteran journalists who have experienced much upheaval in Iran’s media did not spare many positive comments about this year’s exhibit. However, the executive committee of the exhibit claim that all of the news agencies, press, newspapers, news websites and magazines across the country partook in the exhibit and over 600 booths were taken.
One of the veteran journalists at environment posted on her facebook wall about her visit from the exhibit reading: “I visited the press exhibit on Thursday. I felt like I was touring in a country 5000 kilometres away from my homeland. After 20 years of experience in journalism, walking in a journalistic arena I could not find a familiar face to say hi. I could not meet even one of those people who I got to know in the last 20 years of working as a journalist.” She explained more interesting point of her tour: “I found it interesting that I could not find a professional magazine that was worth paying for. And the worst part of the story was that I realised all my fellow journalist colleague have either immigrated to a foreign country, or are unemployed. They may have a job, but they are not working in a related field and I consider them unemployed journalists.”
Those who boycott 18th press exhibit
Last year six news websites affiliated to conservative parties had boycotted the 17th edition of the exhibit in a response to the then deputy culture minister for press in Iran, Mohammad-Ali Ramin’s policies. Ramin accused some websites of having tendency to Zionism. This year, only one newspaper boycotted the event. Arman (Cause) Newspaper was the only newspaper that chose to stay out of the programme.
One of the journalists who work in the newsroom of Arman newspaper said: “Arman Newspaper has boycotted the exhibit to decry the culture ministry’s obvious discrimination against reformist press.”
However, amid such media recession those few reformist press that participated in the exhibit were luckier than conservative press to attract visitors. Exhibit in absence of real media practitioners.
This year was difficult year for media and reporters all across the country. Fellow media practitioners witnessed newspapers and news agencies being closed down one after another, reporters were imprisoning and many veteran journalists immigrated abroad.
“This year edition of the press exhibit has been held in Iran in time that roughly 40 journalists are in prisons and about 50 media has been closed down in the last two years,” Ali Mazrouei, head of the Journalists Association of Iran said in an interview with Radio France. He says full censorship is the dominant power in Iran and it’s media. Mazrouei elaborates how legal censorship is applied in Iran: “one the articles added to Press Law of Iran states that Supreme National Security Council can order press what to publish and what not to publish.” He believes that the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council is writing letters to press regularly releasing ordains on what they must publish and what they cannot publish.
Exhibit for government media
One of the journalists working for a reformist publication that was present at the exhibit states: “the opposition media does not enjoy much of chance to have good facilities. The exhibit is not held under good circumstances. One of the basic problems was power. Electricity was cut often.” All publications that he worked for were closed down. This journalist was being sarcastic when he quoted Mohammad Hosseini, Iran’s Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister. He says: “Hosseini stressed on his speech at the opening ceremony of the exhibit that in Iran anyone with any political inclination and any ideology can work for media.”
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.