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IranWire: Where Professional and Citizen Journalism Meet

iranwireJournalism has never been an easy job. The conditions get worse when a journalist is dealing with an authoritarian government such as the Islamic Republic of Iran.

The 2013 World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders ranks the Islamic Republic of Iran 174 amongst 179 countries for its respect for media freedom. The report maintains that the government of Iran not only incarcerates journalists, but also “harasses the relatives of journalists, including the relatives of those who are abroad.”

In the aftermath of the 2009 fraudulent presidential election and the crackdown on the people’s protest against the rigging of their votes, the government of Iran has since increased its suppressive practices, including closing down newspapers; harassing of journalists charging them with bogus charges, incarcerating, and mistreating them.

With the government’s brutal crackdown on any expression of dissent in the public sphere, many Iranian activists, academics and journalists have taken to cyberspace to vent their discontent with the government.

Iran observers have seen a mushrooming of Iran-related websites on the Internet over the last few years. With no doubt, one of the most authoritative websites giving coverage to Iranian issues is IranWire, which was launched in April 2013. There are a number of reasons for IranWire’s rapid rise in the Iranian cybersphere.

First, IranWire tries to bring modern independent professional journalism to the Iranian cybersphere. Maziar Bahari, the prominent Iranian-Canadian journalist, filmmaker, and editor of the site, maintains that a group of professional Iranian journalists who had worked with the Western media, “felt that there was a great need for an independent website that could introduce modern independent professional journalism to the Iranian websphere. By independent, I mean irreverent yet respectful journalism that has no allegiance except to the facts. Professional basically means the kind of journalism that adheres to recognized, well-established journalism practices, and relies more on reporting than interpreting the news. And modern means using the newest journalism techniques both in terms of content, such as new ways of story-telling and using statistics, and format such as multimedia, video, graphs, etc.”

From left: Maziar Bahari, Azadeh Moaveni, Omid Memarian

From left: Maziar Bahari, Azadeh Moaveni, Omid Memarian

Second, one of IranWire’s strengths is its contributors, who are renowned and respected Iranian journalists both inside and outside Iran. In addition to Bahari, regular contributors include the renowned Iranian-American writer and journalist Azadeh Moaveni (IranWire in English and Persian, Reza Akhlaghi’s interview with Ms. Moaveni, personal website), journalist and blogger Saeed Kamali Dehghan (IranWire in English and Persian, The Guardian), journalist and blogger Omid Memarian (IranWire in English and Persian, personal website), and cartoonist and illustrator Mana Neyestani (IranWire in English and Persian).

Third, in a country where big cities—such as Tehran, Esfahan, and Tabriz—receive significant media attention at the expense of other provinces, IranWire has a section dedicated to all Iranian provinces. OstanWire (literally “ProvinceWire”), reports on Iran’s thirty-one provinces as an attempt to give coverage to the whole country as opposed to the capital Tehran and other major Iranian metropolitans.

Fourth, IranWire’s vision differentiates it from other online sources. IranWire is a website to learn about Iranians and the people of other countries. It is more descriptive than analytical and encourages readers to draw their own conclusions. Unlike some websites that only rely on professional journalism, IranWire also actively encourages citizen journalism. The website reads that “IranWire welcomes professional journalists and ordinary citizens who want to write about themselves, their environments and their experiences.” IranWire has no doubt that Iran will have a bright future and asserts that “citizen journalists play a pivotal role in creating the future of our country.”

Fifth, IranWire provides training modules about different topics such as filmmaking, citizen journalism, and cyber security for interested individuals. The educational programs provide an opportunity for readers to explore those fields and get a taste of them. Each lesson includes hyperlinks that directs to other sources that help readers continue their education on a topic.

Recently IranWire announced a writing competition with prizes. Participants are asked to submit stories and articles by September 6, 2013 on one or more of the following areas:

  1. Women’s rights in society
  2. Life outside the big cities
  3. Stories on citizen rights

The competition is in line with IranWire’s vision to encourage participation by average citizens in creating their content.

IranWire’s objective—according to Bahari—is to educate the Iranian public about their rights as citizens and make the people in power accountable for their actions. IranWire has been around for just over three months and it is hard to assess how successful it has been in meeting its goals. However, it has genuinely established itself as a reliable source of information for Iran observers.

An increasing number of people “Like” IranWire’s Facebook page (nearly fifteen thousand as of early August) and follow it on other social channels like Twitter (in English and Persian). Hopefully, the editorial board will continue building upon its success and fulfill their mission.  Iranian websphere is replete with established “ideological professionals.” Hopefully, IranWire will help identify potential talents who are out there, but are not necessarily “professional.”

 

Author

Alireza Ahmadian
Alireza Ahmadian

Alireza Ahmadian is an Iranian Canadian political analyst and writer whose work has appeared on forums such as openDemocracy, the Foreign Policy Association Blog, and BBC Persian Blog's Nazeran Migooyand [Observers say...]. He has also appeared on BBC World News and BBC Persian TV to discuss world affairs.

Ahmadian’s main interests are foreign policy, diplomacy and social justice issues, especially those related to Iran, and U.S. and Canada's foreign policy in the Middle East.

Ahmadian has a Master of Arts from the Centre for International Studies and Diplomacy at the University of London, England’s renowned School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and is currently a research student in Global Studies. He previously studied History at the University of British Columbia and speaks fluent Persian, English and intermediate Arabic.

You can follow him on Twitter: @ahmadianalireza

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