How Iran manages foreign correspondents
There is a huge gap between what is shown of
Bilingual Iranians who follow the local news through a variety of outlets in
The question is why the very journalists who do a professional job in their own countries often fail to do so when they travel to
Tehran has a three step process to manage foreign media: a tight screening process for selecting which journalists get a visa to travel to
Getting the visa
Most people think that journalists would go through the same process as other visitors when they want to travel to
This is totally incorrect. At the first step, they must obtain a "journalism permission" document from an Iranian embassy, otherwise their activities will likely be deemed to be spying, and they might be arrested - which might even cost them their lives. Just think of Zahra Kazemi, who died while in custody.
Having this screening process, the Iranian officials can stop anyone at the door. Those who have a style of clear critical political thinking do not even make it to
|Having this screening process, the Iranian officials can stop anyone at the door|
There is an office for foreign press in
These officers guide and direct the journalists to work based on the guidelines of the current leadership policy. They also ensure that the journalists are not visiting Iranians who are on the "black list" - consisting of the most informed and critical Iranian citizens.
Any violation by the journalists will be recorded, and might jeopardise their career in
Even after leaving
Just as a simple proof, foreign journalists who have travelled to
Despite all these limitations, journalist have some ways to discover the realities that the regime doesn't want them to know or report.
However, they do not report their findings out of fear of losing the connection with the government officials which they might need at some point later in order to have access to some critical information.
This is not unique to Iran. Even
According to Iranian officials, what is going on in
During official demonstrations or voting days, the journalists are given permission to report what is going on with a pre-scheduled plan. This is why the opposition abroad always takes these reports with a grain of salt due to what they know is going on behind the curtain.
With all of these restrictions, the least they can do is to report the opinions of both sides, a task in which they often fail.
|The least they can do is to report the opinions of both sides, a task in which they often fail|
The deal makers are the last piece of this ugly puzzle.
Unfortunately, they are the ones who will be chosen by some journalists to reflect "the true voice of the Iranian people". Deal makers such as Houshang Amirahmadi (American Iranian Council), Trita Parsi (National Iranian American Council) or those who give service to Iranian officials while acting merely as translators are considered as well-informed people with access to Iranian officials.
They will impersonate opposition, while not being the case at all. Hooman Majd, Ahmadinejad's personal translator, called him a "complete crazy man" on John Stewart's Daily Show when he was out of office, and calls Rouhani a "pragmatic reformist" - while both men are simply followers of the leader of the country.
They can easily go back and forth to
Those few channels that every once in a while reflect small portions of human rights violations in
Majid Mohammadi is an Iranian-born academic and the author of several books in Persian and English on politics, arts and religion in Iran.
Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of al-Araby al-Jadeed, its editorial board or staff.