The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies
(CAIS) -- In an unprecedented move by the Iran’s
Cultural Heritage, Handicraft and Tourism Organisation (ICHHTO), all the active
Iranian archaeologists are banned to partake in any interview or reveal any
information about the organisation or the status of Iranian archaeology.
Since 1979 Iranian archaeologists not only
have carried out their duties as the ‘explorer’ to shed light on Iran’s
past through their scientific works, but also voluntarily they have taken the
task of protecting Iranian heritage from destruction. As the result of their
endeavours today, most of Iranian newspapers, have an archaeological or heritage
section dealing with the latest archaeological discoveries in Iran – and by
doing so, they succeeded to bring the heritage matters to Iranian homes.
“The heritage matters have been taken
seriously by the Iranian media for past few years, and Iranian archaeologists
have become the bridge between the ICHHTO and the media – they as the
educators have illuminated the significances of “heritage” and
“archaeology” in today’s Iran”, according to a report by the Persian
service of CHN.
The imposed interview ban has raised the
suspicions and swayed the public’s mind that the authorities in charge of the
organisation and subsequently the government want to censor and filter the news
to cover up their incompetency in doing their jobs. Despite this the ICHHTO’s
claim that the news would still be available to the public and media via their
public relations office.
The banning of the archaeologists who are
considered to be the heralds of the Iranian archaeological news is in
contradiction with the Islamic Republic’s constitution and the move is
considered to be illegal. Nonetheless, this is not the first time that the
Islamic Republic’s ignores its’ own constitution.
By implementing such a ban the regime
tries to close the only avenue of obtaining the accurate news about the status
of Iranian archaeology.
ICHHTO’ Incompetency & the
ICHHTO have unsuccessfully tried to
silence archaeologists in past, by channelling the news through the public
relation office. However, since last year they stepped up their offensive
behaviour towards archaeologists who choose to put themselves on the line of
fire to protect their nation’s heritage and since then any experts who have
criticised or exposed the ICHHTO misconduct have either received warnings or
faced harsh reprimands and dismissals.
“Giving an expert view [of the heritage
matters] is an absolute right of the archaeologists. Also issuing statements
regarding a particular organisation’s internal affairs is the responsibility
of their public relation offices, since the individuals including the experts
are not fully aware of the protocols – therefore organisations nominate a
speaker to execute the task”, said Mohammad-Mehdi Forqāni, lecturer of Media
Science at Tabatabai University.
“As the experts cannot fulfil the
speakers’ job – the speakers and public relation offices are also incapable
of commenting about the culture and heritage matters, as it is the experts’
field”, said Forqāni.
He added “the banning law not only is
revoking the archaeologists’ rights in expressing their expertise views, but
also it is the abuse of the freedom of speech.”
He concluded “the media generally prefer
to obtain the news directly from their sources, by interviewing the experts
rather than via a [filtered] liaison office.”
ICHHTO executives in defending the banning
decision have issued a number of contradictory statements, starting by:
“experts are not aware of the cultural matters, and therefore they are
providing wrong information.” This is while the majority of organisation’s
executives are non-educated elements, who occupied the posts just because of
their legions to the regime, connections or being the relations of the ruling
Following the above organisation has
changed the statement and alleged: “since there is no difference between the
experts and non-experts working for ICHHTO, the ban makes sure the prevention of
any contradictory news.”
And the statement changed again to:
“some news dealing with the Iranian heritage [in trouble] is being politicised
and since the experts are not aware of the situation, they influence the process
of resolving the problems, therefore the news should not reach the media
And in the final disdainful statement
ICHHTO stated: “this ban is to ensure the job security of the
The implementation of such censorships and
news filtering demonstrates that people in charge of the organisation consider
archaeologists as whistleblowers who expose ICHHTO’s incompetency in
safeguarding the Iranian heritage.
ICHHTO which is responsible for protection
of the Iranian heritage have failed in its’ responsibilities, and even have
caused damages beyond salvation to Iranian heritage, in particular pre-Islamic
One of the most devastating examples was
issuing a permit to a construction company to build a hotel over a
Partho-Sasanian (248 BCE – 651 CE) cemetery, which resulted
in destruction 10,000 sq.m of the ancient site. The permit was issued by the
head of ICHHTO provincial office, and endorsed by Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei the
director of ICHHTO and the vice-president of current government in power. As the
result of pressure from public ICHHTO
forced to terminate the construction permit and in a public deceiving
interview in July 2008, Rahim Mashaei who himself was one of the collaborators
in destruction of the heritage site, tried to distant himself from the case by
promising an inquiry, and claimed the wrongdoers will be prosecuted. The case
was closed and no one brought to justice – including Rahim Mashaei.
Hamid-Rezā Hosseini a veteran Iranian
journalist regarding the ban said: “this move in essence is pointless, sine we
have well over ten thousand archaeological and historical sites throughout the
country, which most are in a devastating and critical status.
A significant number of these sites for past three years have suffered
immensely and are on the verge of complete destructions, however, by a visiting
those sites and simple observation we independently can inform the public about
their statues and therefore we don’t require archaeologists to tell us
He added “this ban is demonstrates that
there is a rift between the organisation’s management and their experts.
ICHHTO’ management is well aware that the archaeologists do not follow most of
the organisation’s [irrelevant and bureaucratic] protocols – and in a way
the management want to cover up this partition.”
“ICHHTO management are imagining that
their public relation office is capable to dealing with the cultural news
bulletins. They want impose and decide for us what news is to be published and
who we can talk to”, said Maryam Khorsand, journalist and the chief editor of
Persian daily E’temād.
According to her, there is possible
connection between the upcoming presidential election in Iran and ICHHTO’s
banning of interviews.
Today Iranians journalists in cooperation
with archaeologists have reached a level of independency and sophistication that
the ICHHTO is incapable of controlling and filtering the news – such action is
further damages to public’s trust in ICHHTO.
“Journalists will continue their relationships with the archaeologists – and archaeologists will continue informing us [in clandestine]”, said Monā Qāsemiyān, a cultural journalist with Persian daily E’temād.
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