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April 17, 2019 10:02 am

New York Times, in Reversal, Declares Iran Too Dangerous for Its Own Reporter

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

The headquarters of The New York Times. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The New York Times, which earlier this year included Iran as one of the recommended destinations in its “52 Places To Go in 2019,” now says the Islamic Republic isn’t even safe enough for a visit by one of the newspaper’s own travel reporters.

The Times “52 Places” list, published in January, claimed, “the appeal of Iran for adventurous travelers is obvious: the monumental ruins of ancient Persia, the spectacular, centuries-old mosques of Shiraz and Isfahan, the Grand Bazaar and Golestan Palace in the bustling metropolis of Tehran. One additional reason to visit in 2019 is a major exhibition scheduled to open at the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art.” (The list also included the Israeli Red Sea resort city of Eilat.)

On Jan. 13, the Times published an interview with the travel journalist, Sebastian Modak, that the newspaper hired to visit all 52 places in the list in one year. The interview went, in part, like this:

Is there a destination on the list you are most looking forward to?

There’s nothing I’m not excited about, but I think Iran takes the top spot. More than any other place on the list, or even in the world, Iran is somewhere that I’ve only ever been able to look at from afar, through the lens of scary newspaper headlines. I’ve found that there’s often a huge gap between the everyday lived experience of people on the ground and the country as we understand it through geopolitics. I’m ready for any preconceptions I have to be totally shattered, and I’m excited to share my experience with New York Times readers.

As “obvious” as Iran’s “appeal” is, at least according to the Times, and as “excited” as Modak was to visit, it won’t be happening any time soon, the newspaper has now shared with readers in an article by Modak published April 16. He writes:

As regular readers will know, Iran was the place on the list I was most looking forward to visiting. That excitement has only increased, as I’ve received daily messages on Instagram from Iranians excited to show me their home and as I’ve met members of the Iranian diaspora everywhere (and I mean every single place on the list) that I go.

But as HQ has looked deeper into trip logistics it looks like going to Iran is next to impossible. With geopolitical tensions high, the likelihood of getting a journalism visa, as an American working for The New York Times, is next to zero. Even if I managed that, in consulting with security experts, the risks of deportation or detention are just too high. It’s a chance I’ve had to accept is just not worth taking right now, even if it pains me to admit it.

Whatever “pain” Modak has in admitting an Iran visit isn’t worth the risk is surely considerably less than the pain felt by the many Jewish and Israeli victims of Iranian-funded terrorist attacks, or the pain felt by the hundreds of American troops in Iraq killed or wounded by Iranian-backed militants, or the pain felt by all the political prisoners being tortured or mistreated as captives in Iran’s notorious prisons.

In Nov. 2018, the Times, under pressure, announced that it was suspending its moneymaking “Times Journeys” journalist-guided vacation tours of Iran. Prices for those trips had started at $7,895.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of The Forward and North American editor of The Jerusalem Post. More of his media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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