The Price of the Inside View

As we were planning our Iran session, Jeremy and I discussed whether we would be able to find someone with direct experience of Iran – well, that is, find someone and get them to accept our invitation – given the difficulties of traveling there. Today the LA Times published a piece about the costs and benefits of reporting on Iran from inside the country. Its title sums up the analysis: “Inside view is worth risk, reporters in Iran say“. [hat tip: Cyrus Farivar]

Despite the threat of arrest, despite the government shutting down newspapers and explicitly warning the media away from certain topics, the journalists quoted (mostly anonymously) all agreed that it was still better to be there on the ground than to cover Iran from afar. Which I suppose is rather unsurprising, since if they felt differently they obviously wouldn’t be there.

Journalists have to find a balance between doing their jobs – which requires that they independently investigate the government’s claims – and preserving the access they must have to do their jobs. Even in our own country, where no journalist would ever be imprisoned for a story, think of the run-up to the Iraq war. Government claims which were being easily debunked by independent journalists and bloggers were published uncritically and repeatedly by the Washington press corps.

Valid comparison? Discuss in the comments.

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