Farnaz Fassihi is the deputy bureau chief of Middle East and Africa for The Wall Street Journal and the author of Waiting for An Ordinary Day, a memoir of her four years covering the Iraq war and witnessing the unraveling of life for Iraqi citizens. In May 2006, Fassihi was awarded the prestigious Henry Pringle Lecture Award for her Iraq coverage by Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism. Her coverage of the EgyptAir flight 990 crash won the New England News Executive Award as well as a finalist nomination for the Livingston Award.
Question: How did you get your start in journalism?
Farnaz Fassihi: Well, my father decided to move back and I went back to Iran to visit for a summer and decided to stay.
They send you; you can’t just hang out in Iran and not do anything, so I decided to do my undergrad degree in Iran and I got into journalism there, actually. And I became interested in journalism and by becoming a fixer and a translator and eventually a stringer for American journalists who were coming to Iran.
Question: What is it like to be a journalist for an Iranian outlet?
Farnaz Fassihi: Regardless of who you work for, journalists are under pressure in Iran. It’s a difficult place to work. There are a lot of red lines, a lot of things that they can’t really pursue. A lot of newspapers get shut down, if they let something that’s critical. Many journalists get jailed and detained. So, it’s a difficult place to work.
Surprisingly in Iran, when newspapers go to print, there’s no censorship department. Like, I know in Egypt before you send the newspaper to print, you have to send it to the censorship department and they read it. In Iran, to the best of my knowledge, it’s not like that. But there are repercussions to what you publish, not necessarily that you have to run it by anybody beforehand, but definitely you could get reprimanded after.
Recorded Sep 22, 2008.