I tend to run away from writing about my activities or giving interviews. I have always said that I am, as it were, a man "behind the camera." This time, however, it is the anniversary of the establishment of the radio station; there is no escape.
The Zamaneh which I used to see from afar was a Zamaneh in search of new voices. Voices which had not yet been heard or, in effect, a platform for carrying these voices. Iranians needed and still need such a medium, a medium which would act independently in content, one which would not be confined to a special agenda, one which would not be concerned with the usual red lines in contemporary Iranian society.
It is only natural that when one would wish to act in this way, one would have to leave the doors of the medium open to the people. Zamaneh attempted to get its audience involved, and we witnessed that some in Zamaneh's audience were transformed into the creators of its programs. I believe that, in this respect, Zamaneh has on the whole been successful. It was able to create a combination of professional and amateur work in an acceptable form.
The idea of citizen-journalists, which was discussed by Mehdi Jami, Zamaneh's first director and editor in chief, is not an unknown topic to the reputable global media, but rather, in many instances, they have seriously put it to use. Obvious examples are the events following the recent Iranian elections, the main information and images of which were transmitted to the world through ordinary Iranians.
Aside from professional issues, a topic which must not be forgotten is that, apart from Iranians' media needs, the creation of Radio Zamaneh is the result of several years' efforts and achievements of Persian community in Holland - a society comprised of about 30,000 people, which, despite its limited duration of existence in this country, has presented itself very well.
Research has shown that Iranians are among the most successful and harmonious immigrants in Dutch society. Such an image of Iranians in the Netherlands, and trust and faith in them, has been very important in laying the foundation for the creation of Radio Zamaneh, while few people outside of the Netherlands have been aware of this.
With my presence at this radio station no significant change will result in Zamaneh's policies, such as abiding by its professional criteria. We will continue our endeavor to provide opportunities for fresh and unheard voices. Meanwhile, in the field of technology and quality, we will attempt to adopt a fresh outlook in our method of production, and expand our social and cultural programs.
Two days before the Iranian presidential elections I left Toronto for Amsterdam. Due to the atmosphere in those days, I did not even find the opportunity for acquiring a general acquaintance with my colleagues, and becoming familiar with their work methods. Iran's problems had in some way stunned and shocked everyone. Minute by minute, as a small group, we had to cover the situation in Iran. Almost daily, reporters from both Dutch and non-Dutch media were among us, preparing reports of the methods of Radio Zamaneh's activities in gathering information on Iran, as well as obtaining first-hand reports from Persian-language sources.
Whenever one enters a new organization, a period of adjustment has to be made. Our pre-conception was that those few days would soon pass and the elections would eventually be over. Of course, we were all witness to the fact that quite different circumstances prevailed, while each day the situation enters a new period. Of course, in this same period, some of my ideas were implemented in a most unexpected manner. Especially, the idea of introducing Radio Zamaneh to non-Persian speakers. For the first time, a widely accepted international news agency, the Associated Press, published an extensive report on Radio Zamaneh, a report which was subsequently published by the Washington Post, the Guardian, and other global publications.
Likewise, we wished that non-Persian media, and naturally their audience, should come to better understand Iran through Radio Zamaneh. We were able to achieve at least part of this through the Dutch media. The Dutch national news network, NOS; the newspaper, Volkskrant; and the television network, RTL4, prepared various programs with Zamaneh, or on Zamaneh, while some of our analyses were published in the Dutch language in Dutch newspapers. At present, the Dutch media have become familiar with our work much more so than in the past, and have professional relations with Zamaneh.
The English section of the Zamaneh website has also been launched, by which we will attempt to disseminate the news to non-Persian speakers. We hope that soon we would be able to have a social, cultural, and arts section on our English website.
We intend to be more active in the field of video work, too. Zamaneh cooperated in the production of Mohsen Namjoo's first music video, a work which was initially accessible exclusively on the Zamaneh website. If we are able to have access to greater financial resources, we will certainly produce stronger works of video, be they in the field of news, or art and cultural documentaries.
Radio Zamaneh operates with a set budget derived from Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a budget which is significantly reduced annually. This issue naturally limits us in working with others in the field. Of course, this is not a topic which I can discuss in great detail here. As an organization, the structure of Zamaneh is quite different from what it was in the past. As the radio's chief editor, my primary responsibility is in its content and methods of production. The responsibility for the way in which Zamaneh compensates for its financial deficiencies lies with the radio's director. In any case, such financial restrictions, which increase on a daily basis, limits us in attracting greater human resources and expenditure on programs.
Greater pressure will bear upon on the shoulders of our employed colleagues and free-lance programmers. At times, I hear people say, "How the daily content on the website has been reduced in comparison with the past!" And they consider it to be a kind of weakness, while the audience outside of our organization is usually unaware of the financial condition of the radio and the limitations which make our work more difficult by the day. In the past, at times the expenditure has gone over the budget, while its results are now evident. We cannot spend more than what is available to us for programming. That a new organizational structure is needed is fully perceptible, and thus significant changes will soon take place in the radio station and its website.
In any case, we shall continue our efforts in presenting varied and professional programs. I do not consider Zamaneh to be in competition with other foreign-based Persian media. We are only a part of a media complex whose activities complement each other, activities which, in view of the restrictions imposed on the media in Iran, have played a very significant role in providing information regarding affairs in Iran and creating a bond between Iranians.
* Farid Haerinejad, Iranian-Canadian filmmaker, former CBC producer and blogger, is the current editor -in-chief of Radio Zamaneh in Amsterdam. The documentaries "Out in Iran" and "Bloggers War" are among his works. Haerinejad was recently nominated for "Gemini Awards 2009" along with his colleagues in the "Best News Magazine Segment" category.
Note: The above article was originally published in Persian on Radio Zamaneh's website on the occasion of its 3rd anniversary.
... Payvand News - 09/28/09 ... --