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Paper outlines

BBC Monitoring

Text of editorial by Badrossadat Mofidi headlined "The perils of journalism in Iran" published by Iranian newspaper E'temed website on 28 October

The publication of a report about the situation of journalism in Iran pertaining to the second quarter of 1386 [year beginning on 21 March 2007] by the Association of Iranian Journalists seriously indicates the hardly desired situation of this profession in comparison to other careers and jobs in Iran. Apparently, this association is expected to continue publishing such reports on a quarterly and annual basis.

The statistics published in this report in relation to the closure and banning of the press and the bad treatment to journalists is a reminder of a bitter phenomenon that has haunted those active in this field and that is nothing but the high cost of journalistic activity in Iran. The phenomenon that has gradually led to an atmosphere of dismay and hopelessness among those working in the press has on the one hand diminished the interest and enthusiasm of the investors in this area and on the other hand has had a negative impact on the quality of the jou! rnalistic profession. In other words, which sage person would be ready to invest his/her capital in the unstable press market and after having spent heavy amounts, at the time of making profits, be subjected to the shock of being closed down?

On the one hand, the reduction of journalistic activity while the modernisation and creativity of this profession is increasing day by day around the world is the other problem that has been created by marginalizing the experienced, efficient and effective journalists. In addition to this, the periodic unemployment of journalists after any closure has increased the number of journalists leaving this profession who approach other jobs to secure the livelihood for themselves and their families. However, most important of all is the peril directed at the issue of "freedom of press" [punctuations as published here and throughout] and the "free flow of news" under the influence of such restrictive treatments and behaviours. This is wh! ile, according to the constitution, the press and publications are fre e to publish news. On the other hand, the 3 Article of this law has made the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran duty-bound to increase the level of public awareness in all fields through the appropriate use of the press and mass media. It is notable that currently in many of the constitutions around the world, it is not merely the issue of freedom of press and freedom of speech that has been included but also some policies have been put in place to secure and guarantee this freedom in order to prevent any threatening interpretation against this human right.

However, since the constitutional experts in Iran have left the explanation of the limits of the freedom of press and publications to the ordinary compilation of the Press Law and the view of this law have also become more restrictive towards the principle of the freedom of press during the period from the early years of the Revolution until now.

Of course, there are still a number of points in the law! that openly prohibits any kind of pressure on the press and the censorship and control over the publications by the governmental and non-governmental authorities and considers the obtainment of publication of domestic and foreign news as the legal right of the press in order to increase public awareness and protecting the expediencies of the society.

This is while, the "Press Supervisory Board" that must be the guardian of the right of freedom of press by issuing licences [for those who want to publish new publications], should also be the provider of necessary facilities for a transparent distribution of information to the people. During these years, while having gone beyond its circle of responsibility, the board has performed in a way that has often been faced with criticism.

According to an earlier-mentioned report, while during the summer of 1386, [year beginning 21 March 2007] two newspapers with heavy circulations were banned and another newspaper was cl! osed down due to some reasons, yet we do not see any will on the side of the board for issuing licenses for the applications of newspaper licences. Based on the published statistics only around 40 publications (weeklies, monthlies and quarterlies) have received licences for publication and this is while there are currently 2,826 applications for gaining publication licences.

On the other hand, according to the official statistics of the Press Supervisory Board, since the beginning of the Ahmadinezhad government, 570 publications have had their licences revoked. Of course, a number of these publications were revoked as they did not observe Clause 16 of the Press Law which requires new licensees to publish their publications within six months from the date of issuance of their licence. However, this does not take away government's responsibility to provide the opportunity of activity for the press.

In any case, the behaviour of the relevant institution responsible for press affairs has currently created a situation for the journalist! ic profession - that if not corrected soon - its repercussions could perhaps secure the interests and view of the ruling faction in the short-term but in the long-term it would definitely be the system that would suffer the most.

It is hoped that this would be taken into consideration.

Source: E'temad, Tehran, in Persian, on 28 Oct 07, p6



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