Honest Journalism about Iran in Washington
کار صادقانه ژورنالیستی درباره ایران در واشنگتن
I am an Iranian-American journalist, have lived in the U.S. for 45 years, and worked in Washington, DC for the last ten years. One thing that bothers me about being based in DC is that doing journalism in this city has some peculiarities. Let me explain.
Honest journalism requires freedom from political pressure, to report facts accurately, fairly and in a balanced way. It is understandable that various political groups have their lobbies in Washington DC. Arch enemies of Islamic Republic of Iran, both Iranian and those representing other countries, have their lobbies in DC. Also there are lobbies that favor Islamic Republic of Iran. There is nothing wrong for either one of these groups to exist in DC. After all this is a democracy and the lobby groups try to pass their views to US Congress in a civilized manner.
It is also understandable that journalists are not indifferent potatoes and have their own political views and this fact has never stopped any good work of journalism. New York Times and Wall Street Journal are good examples that even have their own respective political views but present excellent works of journalism. In fact, the journalists who hide their own political views may not be as straightforward about their reporting of events either. Some of the most honest and unbiased journalists have had clear political views but offered honest balanced reporting and analysis. The opposite situation can hurt honest journalism.
Let me give an example of how honest journalism can suffer.
In Iran, journalists are under surveillance by the security and intelligence apparatus in their work and feel the need to answer to those authorities rather than to their audience. This is what kills honest journalism. The American journalists reporting on local issues in Washington never feel any such restraint. Local TV stations feel answerable only to their audience. This is why they may even choose not to broadcast a speech by the US president if they see their audience does not care for it. In Iran, one cannot find this kind of freedom for media which is a given in the United States.
But in Washington, when it comes to reporting about Iran, the pressure from lobby groups is felt indirectly and one may feel the need to avoid offending them, as if the journalist has to answer to them rather than to one's audience. Sometimes a journalist reporting on Iran gets the feeling as if s/he is expected to be the spokesperson of Iranian government or its enemies and not just be an honest journalist. Honest journalism is just that and is different from intelligence work, whether in Iran or in the US. If in either country anybody chooses to do intelligence work, it is fine and that is their job but please let those who want to be just an honest journalist to do their work. Someone like myself who has chosen to be a journalist wants to be just that and nobody's agent, US, Tehran or others.
Hopefully we will see the day in our lifetime that journalists everywhere in the world can do honest work without such pressures, whether they choose to live and work in Tehran, in Washington, or anywhere else in the world. Creating subtle obstacles for honest journalists in their professional life is contrary to the spirit of democracy. In fact, an important protest has been going on for a month now in Iran by people who are indirectly blocked from working in their profession because of dissent and thinking differently (1).
Hoping for a democratic and secular futurist republic in Iran,
Sam Ghandchi, Editor/Publisher
December 9, 2014
1. Work Right, Dissent Right