Journalism, Thrill of Pursuing Truth on Perilous Path

Each year, Iran marks National Journalists’ Day on August 8 [sometimes 7] to express the nation’s gratitude for all the hardship endured by journalists. Mehr News’ reporter Marjan Sheikhi has penned a piece on this occasion.

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.  […]

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 unequalled importance for its influence upon the minds and morals of the people.