By Ali Kushki 

A critical thought into 22nd press exhibition in Tehran 

November 11, 2016

TEHRAN - The 22nd International Press Exhibition wrapped up on Friday in Tehran, the largest annual press festival in Iran with a miscellany of media from dailies and periodicals through news agencies to tabloids in attendance.

Upwards of 900 media outlets attended, showcasing front pages in 620 booths and pavilions, a 30 percent jump as compared to the previous year’s event, according to formal statistics.
While the very act of staging the exhibition is commendable, a critical appraisal which situates cultural events like this latest one within a broader social fabric will steer us toward a more authentic take on the true mission of media. 

One which characterizes journalists and journalism as ‘soldiers of democracy’ not manipulators of hypocrisy and as bulwarks of freedom of expression not mouthpieces who serve manipulators and demagogues. 

Over the past 22 years, Iranian media outlets have mushroomed, with an immense number of papers being doled out on a diverse range of issues.
But it remains open to question whether two decades of practicing what I wish to call ‘quantitism’ has brought us more enlightened minds and less biased thoughts, necessary for a society to become a beacon of rationalism. 

I wonder if Iranian media outlets have collectively paddled toward the goal ever! At least they have failed to inject doses of moderation which is the essence of sound judgment. 

Not only is this lack of moderation easily noticed in the paradoxical headlines of papers and new agencies, but also it has crept into the deepest layers of the Iranian consciousness. 

A textbook example of such either-or framework of thinking, all fueled by Iranian media, is the continuous debate of the nuclear deal reached between Iran and six world powers in July 2015. 

On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to watch a live debate at the Tehran Times’ pavilion on the deal, known as BARJAM in Iran and JCPOA in the international arena. 

One of the speakers was simply reductionist, narrowing down the pact to a betrayal to Iran’s future as he saw ‘every single nut and bolt’ of the nuclear program taken away.

The other, while ruling out the legitimacy and rationality of assessing the deal from a critical perspective, launched a strong defense of the deal. 

This mutually exclusive analysis of the issue was once more reflected at the end of the debate when the people gathering there started to comment wildly, with virtually no one taking the middle way.

As of the nuclear deal, media outlets inside the country have been and continue to bifurcate the Iranian society over the deal, each trying to court support for their skewed, distorted reading of the deal. 

This could have been prevented only by journalists whose minds had not been adulterated by political partisanship, which has bred prejudice and hatred in the Iranian society.

Time is intrinsically progressive, but it doesn’t mean that qualitative and quantitative changes are brought about automatically. 

For the Iranian media to introduce themselves as harbingers of change in their immediate context, they simply need to take the middle way. Otherwise, press exhibitions like the one finished yesterday wouldn't be effective. 

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