9 اسفند 1390

The text which has never written

The professional regulation of journalism

28 February 2012

Sara Mohseni

Rose Arjmand

khabarnegaran.info-Japanese’s journalists usually refer to a famous saying that "regulated media does not need press law" and it is the main principle in Japan. That is the reason why every journalist has his own regulation instead of a generic press law generalised to all. The regulations, which are set up by journalists, are able to prevent an article from being published or introduce a new professionally ethical framework. It is a new experience that has never been practiced in Iran. Here we can raise a question; will journalist experience a day that they decide for their media or will it always be a government poking its nose into media job?

Media has two main responsibilities in many European countries; a social responsibility and a civil responsibility which require journalists to compensate damages that their news or analysis may create for people or legal bodies. These regulations also make them accept their criminal liability, even in such countries like France and England that enjoy deep background in journalism and have set their press law long time ago.

In such countries with such a background in media, normally editors in chief are responsible for what has been published in the media. However, it does not mean the rest of staff are off the hook and should not follow any regulations. In fact others have got their own social and legal responsibilities. They seem to tolerant for media but a look at the “self-regulation” rules in countries such as Japan, Sweden and Switzerland give you a better insight into the matter of responsibility in media. Media, itself, and press staff deal with the lawbreaker, who has happened to be one of them. Perhaps it is not easy to imagine such a scenario happen in Iran but in reality it happens in Japan.

Japanese media have a general rule that does not allow you to reveal the identity of the convict under 18 years old. A Japanese newspaper broke the taboo and revealed the identity of the minor defiant.

Although, the public has already knew the identity of the defiant, the “self-regulation” made stall bookmarks refuse to distributes that paper. They found the act illegal and they prevented it without inference of any judiciary body affiliated to the government.

3 regulations only for issuing cards in Iran

Iran’s media regulation does not mention journalists’ rights at all. If you take a closer look at the media regulation in Iran shows that the country has three different versions of media regulation all written by the Iranian governments. The first version was focused on journalists and photographers’ permit and how the licenses should have been issued. It had been proposed as a law by the Interior Ministry and was approved by the cabinet in 1959.

The next regulation was adopted by law in February 1964 and predicted more limitation for journalism’s activities. The third regulation was approved on September 1976 by the council of ministers, enjoyed a wider scope than the first two regulations and involved the all editorials staff in press.

These three regulations have been issued by government to control the description of journalists’ jobs and media’s writers. In fact, they controlled the journalist’s license and their duties.

Necessity of journalism regulations

Professor of Communication Sciences “Kazem Moatamednejad” explains the necessity of professional standard in media saying: “journalism is known as a self-employment profession and like any other careers namely medicine, law, and architecture should enjoy freedom and in dependency. In the medical profession, physicians have a special system to resolve issues related to their profession which called the council on the work of the supervising physician. Lawyers also have their council for support their profession, for sure, journalist also need to have special regulations and system to keep their in dependency from the government.

Roozbeh Bolhari who is working in Radio Farda, Radio Free Europe as a journalist also told us about the necessity of this regulation”: “Such these regulations are necessary and useful for professional journalists. This regulation defines the scope and framework for journalists and for identifying them. While time will determine who can be a professional journalist.

Union or governmental Regulations

In the history of journalism in Iran, two trade unions were formed and unfortunately none of them could formulate regulations for reporters . The union of the journalists in Iran was established before the Iranian revolution in the country under the title of “Syndicate of Writers and Press Journalists” in 1964. This syndicate formulated a set of regulations in the first year which was not implemented due to the political situation in the country.

Hossein Shahidi, a professor of Communication Sciences, is the author of the book which is called ”Journalism in Iran: From Prophecy to Profession" and is under the publishing process. He refers to a part of his book for our subject and says; "writers and journalists syndicate set a series of regulation but this regulation remained as a draft and never were put in practice.”

He mentions some bits and pieces of the regulations which were dominant in journalism atmosphere during 1950s in his book:

1- Any magazines published for the public belong to the public. A press author has to be aware that if s/he does something which doesn’t serve the public, it would be considered as betrayal to people and taking advantage of their trust.

2- A committed journalist must not do something that s/he avoids doing that as a respectable citizen.

3- Journalism must be based on impartiality, love of truth, accuracy and knowledge.

4- In publishing the news, the public interest and clarifying the truth enjoy higher priority, rather than pleasing any particular organization or person. However, journalists have to be aware of conditions at the state of confidentiality and anonymity.

5- Journalists must avoiding publishing reports that may have irreparable consequences to an official or a common citizen, unless the report would do a favour to the public interest and would meet the national demands.

6- Professional journalist never publish an unreasonable content through their press; if s/he makes such a mistake, s/he has to acknowledge the mistake and compensate the negative consequences.

7- Referencing is necessary to authorize the validity of news. Journalists must not adopt distorted news content or publish an interview without the interviewee’s permission to publish.

8- Journalists have all rights to expect enough payment and worry about the maintenance and bonus paid at work. However, they must not sell their profession at the cost of lying and concealing the truth in favour of a person or a party. They have to avoid offending the public and violating nation peace.

These regulations, however, were never implemented and were not passed until after the 1979 Revolution in Iran. In 1990s, for the first time, Journalists Association was formed. This association could not adjust a regulation for reporters during ten years of its short life. The last chairman of the association “Rajab-Ali Mazroei” said in an interview with us: "the journalists association had tried to prepared new rules to develop and formulate the content of the regulation according to the International Federation of Journalists."

He further explained: “following finalisation of the new context of regulation, the members of the association were supposed to sign it after they received their membership card and also commit to its implementation. In reality, however, it will not be implemented unless morality finds it way to put thing in practice.

Mazrouei added: "the association finds such a regulation necessary for media, but, it is fully aware that the regulations cannot prevent a government from interfering in the agenda of the association. The main reason why the regulations do not meet the desired ultimate goal is that a syndicate or a gulled is not in charge to supervise how the regulation is implemented in practice."

Bolhari has also the same opinion:” If any time, we are going to write a journalists regulation, we have to avoid all the governments’ rules and it has to be signed by professors, journalists and other media experts."

Government’s Follows up a Regulation for Reporters In last few years, rumours were heard about the latest program of the government to develop professional journalism regulation. Although, the draft of this regulation has been written by a number of professors of journalism but ultimately it is government regulations. It seems the rules in this regulation have targeted the independence of reporters. One of the journalists who is working in an Iranian press insists on independence of journalism regulation from the sate saying: “how can you have two confronting concepts within one circle. A reporter who meets the government criteria for qualified reporters is not likely to stay independent professionally. Journalists should be critical and also critical of the governments. Here we can raise a question.How can we have an independent journalist who meet the criteria of the government?”

He believes: "with the implementation of this plan, reporters are becoming the government’s official’s staff who have to cover specific news under the state rules. Now they will always feel like they are risking their job if they do not cover government stories and after a while they will lose their professional identity." The initial text has been written and reviewed by professional journalists in 2006, namely “ Kazem Motamedinejad, Ali Akbar Ghazizadeh, Alireza Malekiyan, Aladein Zohoriyan and Shabban-ALi Bahrampour. As the regulation has not been finalized, hence it is being criticized.

Hasan Namak-Doust is a professor of journalism, which has reviewed the regulation in 6 sections and published his opinion in the website of "Media and Freedom of Information". He stated: “Journalism is based on an assumption that governments neither can impose any opinion on the responsibilities of journalists nor deny their responsibilities from them. Journalists’ responsibilities come from the essence of journalism and if governments want to meddle in those responsibilities, concepts like supervising acts of governments and the fourth base of democracy will be meaningless." He pointed out: “journalists are proud of their career because their profession is based upon some ethical framework, but they think that governments have no permission to meddle in defining that framework. Could the authors of the regulation find any country in the world that their journalists have made their ethical framework based on state regulation and have made the government supervise that ethical framework?"

Maybe, with the current situation, which journals have to stop working under the government pressure and reporters being jailed, publishing the First Regulation of Professional Journalism by such a government that has no tolerance for criticism, brings astonishment and maybe fear to the journalists and Medias.”

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