What do you call a journalist in Persian? 

In the ideology of the Islamists, one term in the plural is ashab rasaneh. Introduced a decade after the establishment of the Islamic Republic, it replaced the original phrase dastandarkaran rasaneh (members of the press), transforming the role and function of the journalist. 

Ashab is an Arabic word that means friends, affiliates, or companions. It gained an additional, religious meaning when the contemporaries of the Prophet Muhammad started calling four of his closest affiliates the Sahaba, known in English as the Companions of the Prophet.

It is this religious meaning of ashab (synonymous with Sahaba) that carries the ideological weight in the phrase ashab rasaneh, as if to say that members of the media have an inherent sacredness to them, a religious halo perhaps not unlike that of a holy warrior.

This new usage suggests that journalists are friendly companions; that they have a sacred duty to advance the positions of the regime. This depiction is problematic in many ways, not least of which because it implies that the raison d’être of journalists in the IR is akin to that of the Prophet’s Companions.

Another problematic term is siah namayee, meaning to reveal the darker side of events in the country. If you’re one of the “friends” or “companions” of the regime, you have a duty to emphasize the positive. When authorities forbid siah namayee, they are essentially rendering the whole field of investigative journalism a crime against the holy government. As a journalist, you have a duty—or resalat, in religious terminology as used in Iran—to remain uncritical.

Indeed, another problematic term introduced by the IR is resalat khabari, which in Arabic literally means the “newsy Message”—or some news-related Message—but in a sacred sense (hence the capitalized M).

In Shia theology, however, resalat refers to religious duty. Resalat khabari implies that the journalist has a religious duty to deliver a certain kind of message, one in line with the Islamic Republic. 

The use of the term has become so ubiquitous that it is often used nonsensically, like in the actual headline that ran on March 7, 2021: “American reporters face the challenge of stating the truth in their Resalat (khabari).”

Another case in point in IR Newspeak is hormat qalam, which means the sanctity of the pen (or penmanship).

“Hormat Qalam must be preserved […] as God has given the pen sanctity,” says the Saheb News website, followed by a supporting quote from the Quran.

Obviously these are all problematic terms, as they saddle ashab (journalists) with the ideological mandate to spread the resalat (dutiful message) of the regime, because that is the journalists’ job in the same way that spreading the Message was the job of the Companions of the Prophet. Also, all things penned by a qalam (pen) have hormat (are sacred), a reference presumably to all things disseminated by the IR and its propaganda machine. It would logically follow that a journalist who fails to spread the sacred Message of the regime is committing an act just short of blasphemy.

The Tehran Bureau Style Guide recommends refraining from the use of any of the terms above.

But what do you call a journalist? “Journalist” has crossover usage in Persian. There is also rooznameh-negar, or khabar-negar, which is more authentic to the language. Rooznameh-negar implies someone who writes for a newspaper, and khabar-negar, a reporter. But what do you think about a new, more encompassing word to capture all that is expected of journalists these days? Resaneh-gar, someone who works in media? Any takers?

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