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In Berkeley Talks episode 165, award-winning journalists — Arezou Rezvani, Jane Ferguson, Zahra Joya and Berkeley Journalism Dean Geeta Anand — discuss international women’s rights, with a focus on Iran and Afghanistan, and the challenges of reporting as women and about women in these countries.
“I was last in Afghanistan in November of 2021, so the Taliban had been in control for several months,” says Ferguson, a PBS NewsHour correspondent. “Obviously you’re there, you’re able to make connections with the women — you can talk to them on encrypted services, you can go and meet with them in places. But since then, I’ve been reporting from afar and you have to make connections with young women. And then, you have to try to do it as responsibly as you can. So, we’ll be interviewing them, hiding their faces, in some cases warping their voices, and you can really just take testimony from them on what life is like. It’s hugely challenging.”
“In Iran, the regime is so organized,” Ferguson continues. “There’s such a multi-layered security apparatus that they can repress the internet, they can survey people. They’re much more technologically advanced at effectively repressing insurgencies or any kind of social insurgency. And in Afghanistan, that doesn’t necessarily exist. So, you are able to make connections with young women, which is incredibly helpful. It’s much, much more challenging trying to do that kind of reporting with the Iranian protestors from afar.”
“The surveillance state in Iran is very, very sophisticated,” adds Rezvani. “I mean, everything down to facial-recognition technology to stopping you on the streets to take a look at what’s on your phone. And it makes it very challenging for people to muster the courage to speak up.
“There was an interesting conversation going on in the fall where there was pressure on news agencies to cover Iran, but it was hard to find people who would talk. And even if you granted them anonymity, even if you altered voices, the surveillance state is so great there. The intimidation tactics are so strong there that people have a really hard time, understandably, speaking up and speaking out. So, you just have to continue reaching out to people.”
Listen to the full conversation in Berkeley Talks episode 165, “International journalists on women’s rights in Iran and Afghanistan.”
This March 23 event was organized by the Pulitzer Center and UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism. Support comes from the PIMCO Foundation.
Learn more about the speakers on Berkeley Journalism’s website.
Watch a video of the conversation below.
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