More than a year and a half after President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection in June 2009, Reporters Without Borders continues to support Iranian journalists. Twenty-seven of them are still held in Iran and around 100 have been forced to flee abroad. Each of them represents a voice that has been silenced, a victory for the Iranian regime.
Fifteen leading members of the Iranian diaspora, including several journalists, have joined forces to create the participative satellite TV station IraNeda in order to combat news censorship. Reporters Without Borders provided them with financial support in November 2010 in order to help launch its website. All of the station’s content is going to be available online as well as by satellite.
Mehdi Jami, one of the project’s co-founders and the editor of IraNeda’s website, was interviewed about the origin of the project and the desire of Iranian content creators to offer both their compatriots and the international community a source of independent and non-partisan news and information.
Can you tell us about the IraNeda project and what it hopes to achieve?
Mehdi Jami: IraNeda was set up as a non-profit foundation by 15 leading Iranian figures with the common goal of creating a participative satellite TV station and news website. This project is unprecedented. Run by professionals, this station and website will rely on its public, which will make a major contribution to the creation of its content.
A great deal of news and information has been made available in the Persian language in recent months, in part because of the importance of the popular movement that emerged in 2009. Nonetheless, most of the media that have been created are owned by governments or depend on them. IraNeda wants to fill the need for an independent and professional news media that listens to its public.
How does this work in practice? In what way is IraNeda different from a traditional news media?
Mehdi Jami: IraNeda aims to be a media run by and for members of the Iranian diaspora and Iranians living in Iran. We want to respond to the expectations of these two categories of people. By putting them in charge of IraNeda, we are convinced that we will participate in the evolution and construction of a new Iran.
Iranians have emigrated a lot during the past 30 years. There are big Iranian communities in Germany and Norway, as well as Malaysia, Australia, Canada and the United Arab Emirates. Each of them must come to terms with a different language and culture, which is an additional source of division in addition to the geographic separation.
The Iranians in Iran are themselves also divided. The regime’s violence towards all dissident voices in civil society, combined with the closure and systematic persecution of outspoken news media and journalists, has resulted in divisions in public opinion.
A news media that wants to address the entire Iranian community must take account of this state of affairs. This is what IraNeda aims to do by encouraging all Iranians to participate.
How many people are working on the creation of the project?
Mehdi Jami: IraNeda has the support of many volunteers. Our numbers vary according to needs. But there is a hard core of five to 10 people who work on the website, production of videos, fundraising and project management. IraNeda’s primary mission is to disseminate and share video content and to assemble as many contributors as possible. For our initial project, “A day in the life of Iranians,” 25 per cent of the visual content we received was sent to us from Iran.
Many TV stations are available in Iran. What is IraNeda going to contribute?
Mehdi Jami: The events that followed June 2009 gave rise to a major advance in media coverage in Iran and turned Iranians into “experts” in citizen journalism. IraNeda aims to capitalize on this experience. We are convinced that Iranians have the ability and the desire to participate in the media process and, in particular, to contribute to the leading Persian-language participative TV station.
We are convinced that this form of media has every possibility of providing a great service to Iranian society and having a great impact because it offers everyone a place. Like its own way of operating, IraNeda will be a vehicle of modernity and democracy.
Reporters Without Borders funding
Reporters Without Borders provided almost 3,000 euros in funding to IraNeda in November 2010 with the twofold aim of financing the creation of its website, Iraneda.net, and helping to cover the costs of the conference that the foundation organized in London last August in order to launch the project.
This action was made possible by the EU’s European Instrument for Democracy and Human Rights (EIDHR), of which Reporters Without Borders is a beneficiary.