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Iranian official warns media to safeguard their professional independence

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Although Iran has one of the most restrictive media landscapes in the world, a senior official there warned that media in his country are losing their professional independence.

In a letter to journalists, the Deputy Minister of Culture and Islamic Guidance for Press Affairs, Mohammad Jafar Mohammadzadeh, said an increasing number of journalists ignore the basic principles of their profession.

Mohammadzadeh called on journalists to refrain from belonging to political parties.

According to the BBC’s Persian Service, Mohammadzadeh also cautioned media professionals not to undermine audience trust by reporting rumors spread by political groups.

He particularly criticized the usage of terms “according to informed sources,” “it is believed,” and “it is said,” warning such phrases weaken audience confidence.

Mohammadzadeh said political groups often spread rumors and use the media to achieve their goals.

Iran has one of the most restrictive media landscapes in the world. Many independent newspapers in the country have been closed and opposition websites are filtered.

Dozens of Iranian journalists have been detained since the presidential election in 2009 and tried on charges of plotting to overthrow the government. They include Ahmad Zeidabadi, the recipient of the 2011 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize, who has been banned from publishing and is currently serving a six-year prison sentence.

The Reporters Without Borders 2010 Press Freedom Index ranked Iran at the very bottom, placing it at 175 out of the 178 countries studied.

But despite these criticisms, Mohammadzadeh writes that the Iranian media now enjoys "unprecedented expansion."

Analysts, however, say that the latest warning has been directed towards pro-government media rather than independent media.

In a recent report, Reporters Without Borders stated that pro-government media in Iran have fallen victim to rivalry between factions led by the president and several pro- Ahmadinejad websites which have been filtered after posting articles supporting his decision to fire the intelligence minister.

Photo credit: Fars News Agency

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