Reporting on Iran | World| Breakings news and perspectives from around the globe | DW | 27.05.2013
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World

Reporting on Iran

There are few countries where the press is more restricted than in Iran. For fear of repression, it is as good as impossible for journalists to get interviews or important information.

TO GO WITH AFP STORY IRAN-POLITICS-SATELLITE-JAMMING: An Iranian woman, standing next to two satellite dishes, hangs washed laundry on the roof of her house in Tehran, 12 June 2003. Owning satellite equipment and viewing uncensored international channels is strictly banned in the Islamic republic. Yet many people purchase satellite dishes and receivers illegally and enjoy watching Persian-language TV broadcasts from overseas, among other channels. However, according to the local press, Iranian authorities have equipped themselves with transmitters capable of pumping microwave noise frequencies, or parasites, into the sky, thereby disrupting the viewing of those with dishes hidden on their rooftops. AFP PHOTO/Behrouz MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

Iran Störsender Satelitenanlage Information International

Shortly before the last controversial presidential elections in Iran four years ago, several journalists critical of the regime were arrested or forced into exile. One correspondent who reported for DW's Farsi service and left the country a few days after the elections told DW later that he himself would have become a news story if he had stayed any longer.

Since then, the situation in the country has worsened, and it has become more and more difficult for journalists to get access to the information they need for stories, particularly when it comes to socio-political reportage.

A copy of Iranian Etelat newspaper is seen with front page pictures of both rallies by supporters of rival presidential candidates, in Tehran on June 17, 2009. Iranian newspapers published pictures of a rally staged by supporters of defeated presidential candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi even as foreign media were banned from covering the event. AFP PHOTO/BEHROUZ MEHRI (Photo credit should read BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

The Iranian press is strictly controlled by the government

Anyone who relies on contacts with Iran's foreign media services, like DW, the BBC, or Voice of America, can expect to be forced to account for themselves. Even critical interviews on sports can have unpleasant consequences. Some journalists, who previously said they would be prepared to write under a pseudonym for the DW-Special on the 2013 election, later cancelled for fear of the consequences. Even telephone interviews with citizens and experts in Iran turned out to be very difficult to obtain.

It took an enormous effort to persuade interview partners to talk about certain topics, even anonymously. These conversations were about everyday problems like inflation, the lack of medical provisions, and the economic consequences of the international sanctions against Iran. Even one German interview partner who worked for an aid organization preferred to remain absolutely anonymous, so as not to endanger his organization's supply of medication into the country.

In a police state like Iran, where telephone calls are recorded, emails intercepted, and even Skype conversations traced, fear for one's personal safety is more than understandable. Nevertheless it is always possible to find people brave enough to talk about the situation in Iran. In the light of the risks involved, the Iranian voices presented in this DW Special are all the more valuable.