Media Workers warn of “Death of Independent Journalism”

By Zahra Alipour for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.

“Working as a professional journalist is subject to obtaining a journalist’s license from the Media Governance Organization [MGO] of the Islamic Republic of Iran.” This sentence is part of Article 52 of the [MGO] Bill, which is currently being reviewed by the administration’s Cultural Commission.

The bill, which has six chapters and 66 articles, was introduced and drafted in October 2013 by the press deputy of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, which works under the administration of President Hassan Rouhani.

On Oct. 25, the administration’s official website reported that certain parts of the bill had been reviewed and approved at a meeting of its members, headed by Rouhani himself. Six days later, the full text of the bill was published on the same website. Much criticism followed as many Iranian journalists lamented that the passage of the measure will result in the “death of independent journalism” in Iran. On Nov. 6, ILNA reported that according to a poll of 160 journalists conducted through its website, 81% opposed the bill.

These criticisms finally resulted in the government backing off. On Nov. 5, Seyyed Abbas Salehi, the minister of culture and Islamic guidance, tweeted, “The Media Governance Bill has been returned to the Cultural Commission of the administration for review of certain articles.” On Nov. 8, in an interview with the ISNA news agency, he also declared that the reason for the return of the bill to the commission is the criticism it received due to its top-down nature and tone, promising, “In subsequent reviews and steps, this approach will certainly be toned down.”

An independent journalist living in Iran and identifying herself only as Mina talked to Al-Monitor regarding this issue. She said, “We can say that in all aspects, the [MGO] currently has all the power and can allow or deny journalists the possibility of doing their jobs. Any journalist who has not obtained a license from this organization will not be allowed to even cover regular news. This is one of many problems with this bill.

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