In this country life goes on

Dr. Hossein Entezami
Dr. Hossein Entezami

Transcript of the speech of deputy culture minister at the gathering of Iranian Media and the International Community which marked the launch of Iran Front Page.

Iran Front Page (IFP) was officially launched at a gathering dubbed Iranian Media and the International Community in Tehran on August 20, 2014. One of the main speakers at the event was Dr. Hossein Entezami, who represents the managing editors of the Iranian publications at the Press Supervisory Board. The following is the translation of the speech of Dr. Entezami, who has also served as deputy minister of culture and Islamic guidance for media affairs ever since President Hassan Rouhani’s government took office in August 2013:

The so-called soft power naturally takes shape in soft areas such as civilization and culture, science, tourism, arts, media, knowledge and anything which is related to the nations. That is why Joseph Nye, who has developed the concept of soft power, describes Harvard, McDonald’s and Hollywood as sources of his country’s power in the modern world.

Before the emergence of this discourse [soft power], it was cultural power which drew much attention. In fact, after the Second World War components of power, other than military might – economic, cultural, political and scientific strength – emerged as the building blocks of power. Consequently, although countries such as Germany and Japan did not have armies, they were viewed as powerful nations, and the march toward perfection of nuclear science, genetics, robotics, and nanotechnology in countries which had developed such technologies became a source of power.

The picture the world is painting of Iran is weak, blurred and upside down. That should be all the more reason for us to roll up our sleeves. They don’t even monitor our media. They rely on old classifications and definitions, either intentionally or unintentionally. It comes despite the fact that in our country all aspects of life go on in parallel with politics.

While under traditional diplomacy, governments reign supreme in international relations, in cultural diplomacy nations are the main players. One should not forget the fact that in the new world order, governments which used to be the only players have lost part of their clout. Instead multinational companies, international and regional organizations, NGOs, and even individuals have secured a foothold on the international stage. That is why lines marking national borders are not as important as they used to be and geopolitical frontiers have replaced geographical boundaries.

Over the past 15 years governments have taken public diplomacy on board and have signaled commitment to such diplomacy, at least in terms of planning. Why haven’t we had a deserving share of the components of such diplomacy? Why have we fallen behind?

The fact that we look at non-governmental things from a governmental angle may be one reason behind it. We should know that governmental administration of affairs which is usually slow, non-creative and entangled in restrictions, does not allow areas which are in need of creativity and fast pace to act creatively and jump forward.

Measures to highlight these aspects of Iranian life, develop media ties with others, and facilitate the presence of foreign journalists in Iran can slow down and even neutralize the mischaracterizations which are designed to give rise to Iranophobia.

Involvement of the private sector breaks the spell of inefficiency. Modern governments which are slim solely focus their attention on sovereignty-related questions and on protection of the rights of citizens, transparency, regulation and efforts to pave the way for realization of macro-policies. Thus, they contribute to different components of public diplomacy such as universities, tourism, culture and arts. Accordingly, the overall policy of the 11th government, both in word and in deed, is to step back in favor of the private sector. In other words, in all areas where the private sector can make its presence felt, the government steps back and encourages private players to get involved.

The media atmosphere of the world is shaped by hegemonic powers. They decide which development should be given prominence and which one should receive little or no attention at all. That is why they want a distorted picture to be painted of potentially inspiring countries and nations in the court of public opinion.

Unwittingly we are contributing to their push. Our media focus the better part of their attention on local developments and in the process ignore efforts to help shape the world public opinion. Does this approach have its roots in a lack of need or in insufficient understanding of developments, opportunities and media? Or maybe in inability?

This gathering is organized by the private sector, specifically by a creative pioneer of the media industry. We hope to see more gatherings like this so that they can give synergy and coordination a shot in the arm. The two reasons I just mentioned fill me with hope that Iran Front Page, which is still in the process of evolution, will rise to prominence and become inspiring in the near future.

The picture the world is painting of Iran is weak, blurred and upside down. That should be all the more reason for us to roll up our sleeves. They don’t even monitor our media. They rely on old classifications and definitions, either intentionally or unintentionally. It comes despite the fact that in our country all aspects of life go on in parallel with politics. We make scientific headway and our scientific indexes grow. Although the public culture is still facing several problems, it is developing and marching toward improvement. Who should shoulder the responsibility to reflect the realities of Iranian society?

Measures to highlight these aspects of Iranian life, develop media ties with others, and facilitate the presence of foreign journalists in Iran can slow down and even neutralize the mischaracterizations which are designed to give rise to Iranophobia.

This gathering is organized by the private sector, specifically by a creative pioneer of the media industry. We hope to see more gatherings like this so that they can give synergy and coordination a shot in the arm. The two reasons I just mentioned fill me with hope that Iran Front Page, which is still in the process of evolution, will rise to prominence and become inspiring in the near future.

Hossein Entezami was born in the northeastern city of Mashhad in 1967. He holds a Ph.D. in strategic management. He has written several books and held many positions such as the representative of the managing editors of the Iranian publications at the Press Supervisory Board, managing director of Hamshahri Daily, managing editor of Jam-e Jam Daily, spokesman of the Supreme National Security Council, a member of the Press Jury, etc.

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