Archive for the ‘ethics’ Category

Live Blog of Iran 360˚: Exploring Politics, Economics and Society in a Global Hot Spot

Well, it’s not live anymore. I just saw it today, and the conference ended last Thursday. But anyway, it gives a few hints about what the conference was about and who talked about what.

Generally the conference was aimed at educating/briefing American journalists about the “real” situation in Iran so that they avoid misconceptions and stereotypes common in US coverage of Iran. A group of Iranian journalists/academics (including me) and a former American ambassador were the panelists. Also, An American psychologist gave an interesting talk about stereotypes, how they are constantly being shaped and how they shape our understanding of the world. (Wise choice by the conference organizers!) Journalists from some top American media outlets were the audience.

I was a speaker in “Changing Fabric of Iran: A society in flux” panel. Not very surprisingly, I talked about women’s movement in Iran, and insisted on how it is independent, but how it has been always perceived and conceptualized in relation to politics and male nationalism, either by the state or the opposition groups and Western journalists. I insisted that this movement is a feminist movement and it’s not right to put the movement within the Islamist/Secularist or Pro-government/Pro-regime-change dichotomy. I also mentioned how some Western governments and organizations are doing more harm to social movements in Iran by announcing their support of the movements, and how a vigorous journalism will investigate these interferences and will hold the Western governments and journalists accountable for the damage they cause the activists living inside Iran. I also mentioned couple of times that we tend to ignore the role of patriarchy in the various forms of gender discriminations in the Iranian society, and we just want to put all the blame on Ahmadinejad’s government, as if the previous politicians were inherently pro-women.

I will try to write about what I talked about in the panel more in the future. I wasn’t able to say everything I wanted to say, because, stupidly, I had a “Hilary moment” (as one of my friends sarcastically put it) and cried while I was talking about the stoning of Jafar Kiani last summer. Also, it was impossible to talk about a 100-year-old women’s movement in 10 minutes and avoid stereotyping and simplifying.

There was this neocon journalist at the conference that couldn’t bear listening to a different point of view. While I was talking to him about how problematic this dichotomous demon/victim representation of Iranian government and its people is, I realized that he is rudely looking at the ceiling, pretending that he’s not listening. So, I wasn’t surprised to see him absent at the psychology talk and our panel. These people have already made their minds and they don’t want to hear any alternative viewpoints. This stubbornness and self-righteousness scares me to death, specially when it comes from a “journalist.”

On the side note, I really had a great time in this conference. It was held in the beautiful Airlie center and was really like a retreat that I so badly needed. I also met lots of interesting journalists and we had lots of fun in the center’s pub.

Dear conference mates, please keep in touch if you read here! I will promise I’ll show you some 3D version of Iran as well (not to limit ourselves to 360˚!)

p.s. I just realized that WordPress has made a few changes in its control panel. Nice try, I like the new configuration much better. Gives me more control.

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Ethics of execution photos

Kobre talks about four elements in photography, that if combined, would produce best examples of photojournalism: informational, graphically appealing, emotional, and intimate (p. 196). He also talks about three different approaches to ethics in photojournalism: Utilitarian (informing people as the highest priority), Absolutist (individual’s rights to privacy as priority), and the Golden Rule (treating the subjects the way you wish to be treated yourself as priority) (p.300).

The four elements he mentions for producing good photojournalism on page 196 completely make sense to me, and many great photos that I have seen in my life had all these four characteristics combined. But I’m not sure if these four elements can always be compatible with ethical approaches to photojournalism, specially the absolutist and the Golden rule ones.

Few months ago, Iranian news agencies published a lot of photos of public execution of “thugs, rapists, and thieves” in Tehran and some other big cities of Iran. I was appalled by seeing the pictures everywhere on the net. I was heart-broken to see people are posting the pictures in their blogs, as a chance to show their dissatisfaction with their government, without thinking about the right to privacy of the alleged convicts. On the other hand, as a person who is against any form of capital punishment, I thought it would be useful to have the photos of so many people hanged up in the air, because this might show the brutality of capital punishment, and might have some impact on people who do not necessarily find capital punishment wrong. Also, I thought the public has the right to know that their government mass execute people, without holding fair public trials for them (which is against Iran’s constitution).

But what concerns me the most and I hope you can help me digest, is what I call the artistic touch, or in Kobre’s word the “graphical appeal” some of these photos have. You can even see some novel angles in the photos. If the dead people were alive, some of the photos could have been really called appealing. I kept wondering (and I was confused) that how ethical it is to take eye-catching photos of an event so inhumane and brutal. If I were a photojournalist, I would try not to be sent on an assignment to take such photos to begin with, but I understand that there is merit in documenting these executions (not to mention that these photographers have been sent out on assignments to take these photos, and couldn’t perhaps reject taking the photos). But how far should we go? Should we always try to be artistic and have graphical appeal in every photo we take? Couldn’t simple shots of an event such as execution enough for informing the public?

You can see some of the photos I’m talking about in the following albums: 2007-07-17-Execution, 2007-08-01-Execution, 2007-09-02-Public Execution, 2007-09-11-Fortuneteller Executed in Qom.

The photos I’m specifically talking about are these: onetwothreefourfivesix.

(The owner of the above photoblog has not originally taken the photos. He’s copied and republished the photos from various Iranian news agencies.)