Journalism, thrill of pursuing truth on perilous path

TEHRAN, Aug. 07 (MNA) – 'Being a journalist is hard work,' you may have heard these words from almost everyone in the journalism profession. Iran celebrates National Journalists' Day on Aug. 8 to express the nation's gratitude for all the hardship endured by journalists.

“I am grateful to journalism for waking me up to the realities of the world.” - Eduardo Galeano

Being a journalist is hard work, this is the first thing my boss told me when I came for my job interview three years ago, as a warning or perhaps as an amicable advice to give me a chance to rethink my career choice if I did not see myself fit for the job description. Needless to say, I did not heed the warning, because really, how hard could it be? There is an expression among us Iranians that says ‘this is the toughest job in the world, after working in the mines.’ Some would even go so far as to say journalism is even tougher than a mining job. Comparisons aside, no one gets into journalism for the money. The job may hold some flimsy prestigious appeal to those looking at it on the sidelines, but from inside, it is fraught with so many sleepless nights, anxiety-ridden hours, exhausting commute on foot or by public transport in terrible climate conditions, and just pure headache. But, this cannot be all, right? According to a survey conducted in 2014, there were 83,000 full time professional journalist employees in the United States. Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance, Hossein Entezami, put the number of active journalists in Iran in 2016 at approximately 5,000. The figures are not staggering, of course, especially when one compares it to the whole Iranian population of 77.45 million in 2013. Yet, being a journalist must have its appeals, if it has attracted thousands of people to choose it as their profession when they could have easily been working a 9-to-5 office job (it is 8-to-4 in Iran, by the way).

Mitra, a young journalist with five years of experience in medical and scientific journalism, perceived her career with passion and love; “journalism for me is not just a word, but a combination of creativity, honesty, alertness, confidence and courage,” she said. “These are the reasons why I am still pursuing this career with the same enthusiasm I had five years ago.”

“Each day at my work greets me with a new kind of adventure,” she said with excitement. “It is hard work, but you can never accuse journalism of being boring.”

The pursuit of information can indeed come with a rush of pure excitement and adrenaline-pumping experience, as beautifully dramatized in ‘Spotlight’. But sometimes it comes at the cost of great perils. According to Reporters without borders, 80 journalists were killed in 2015, with Iraq, France, Syria and Brazil among the deadliest countries. The website puts the number of killed journalists in 2016 so far at 35, with Syria, Mexico and Yemen having the highest number of fatality among journalists. The report published by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) cites 199 jailed journalists worldwide in 2015, and 452 forced into exile since 2010. There are also a number of missing cases, particularly in Syria and Iraq as two countries are currently suffering from terrorist activities and civil wars.

People in Iran commemorate Journalists’ Day on August 8 (August 7, this year) in memory of Mahmoud Saremi, Afghanistan bureau chief for the official Iranian news agency, IRNA, who was killed when Taliban militia seized the northern city of Mazar Sharif and captured the Iranian consulate. Our National Journalists’ Day is in fact a commemoration of the sacrifices that journalists and reporters make on this hazardous path toward truth and awareness. But I do not wish to end my piece here, making it sound as if journalism is bound to always have a sad ending. I would like to talk about one of my own experiences as a journalist, at the time when all the world’s eyes had been focused on Iran: the period between June and July 2014, when Iranian nuclear negotiators sat with the six world powers to reach a deal on the country’s nuclear program. During this time, world news headlined the process of nuclear negotiations and people were following up on the news with apprehension and curiosity. Some would even argue that the media also played a part in the conclusion of the nuclear deal; in fact, President Rouhani thanked the active presence of Iranian youth in the cyberspace who had been in one way or another engaged with the negotiations buzz, and deemed the role of media outlets highly effective on the path that ultimately led to signing of the agreement on July 14, 2015.

It was a race among Iranian media and press to be the first among their peers to broadcast the news to the world. And it was one of those few cases where we, at Mehr News Agency, found ourselves personally involved in and concerned with the course of the news.

Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Majid Takht-Ravanchi who was among the nuclear negotiating team called the nuclear negotiations as part of our history and expressed his content over the fact that the same view was present among the journalists who had been covering the news at the time.

No one can deny the power of written words, and journalists are simply in possession of that power. With power comes responsibility, and those journalists who are committed to excellence and moral principles in their profession can bring positive changes to the world around them.  

Joseph Pulitzer, an American newspaper publisher who is perhaps better known for the Pulitzer Prizes, has left us with this golden quote which I am leaving here for those of you who are thinking to become a journalist yourself: “I am deeply interested in the progress and elevation of journalism, having spent my life in that profession, regarding it as a noble profession and one of unequaled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.”

Written by Marjohn Sheikhi

News Code 118718


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