Interview by: Lisa Hillers
Farhad Payar is a freelance journalist and documentary filmmaker with a wealth of experience in a wide range of industries. Born and raised in Iran he came to Berlin to study Mechanical Engineering and Political Science during the 1980s. He then took on a multitude of jobs working as a taxi-driver and a social worker among other professions. Currently he is working as an actor, filmmaker, theatre director and journalist based in Berlin. More recently, he has been working on a project called “Transparency for Iran”, an online news resource designed to provide a broader perspective on current events in Iran and heighten the German public’s awareness of these issues. The goal is to support human rights and press freedom, through holistic understanding of Iranian internal affairs and local knowledge.
How does your personal background and previous experience influence your work for TFI?
I like to think that every new experience opens a door in a person’s consciousness. It allows you to look at certain phenomena in a different way, and sometimes gives you a more profound understanding of things. Regarding my journalistic work at TFI, the little political work that i did back in the day, really helps me research and select the subjects and themes for our articles.
Do you have any particular subjects that attract your interest more than the others?
I am very interested in cultural matters. In Iran, the line between culture and politics is very difficult to define as every cultural action is made political by the government. Because the government attempts to control everything, cultural and social activities automatically become political issues. Basically, I am interested in what influences people culturally, i want to get to know their own perspectives, thoughts and ideas on all kinds of different social issues.
Do you feel that issues in Iran are given sufficient coverage in the German media ?
There is a lot of information about Iran in the media, though unfortunately the scope is relatively limited. There is so much going on in the world that it is inevitable that important stories from each country are overlooked. That’s what we are here for. However we are not looking to replace the German media, more to complement it through offering alternative points of view. For example, a meeting of the Arab states can be perceived in a certain way in Germany and perceived differently in Iran. TFI tries to offer this Iranian perspective, too.
On your website, it says that “every culture is like a text that is interpreted differently by everyone that attempts to read it.” Can you elaborate on this?
Just like narratives, societies convey their own meaning. Our team of journalists local knowledge and language skills enable them to fully explore all background information available, and thereby offers the reader a whole new perspective on the subject matter. The German author, Ingeborg Drewitz had a profound impact on my life, at a memorial I once heard someone describe her main quality as “seeing with the eyes of others and hearing with the ears of others.” This has become my personal life motto and it also remains at the core of the TFI philosophy.
How important is social media for social movement in Iran?
In countries without free speech and a free media, social media is enormously important. In Iran,
the TV has turned into a propaganda-machine, it functions solely as a disseminator of pro-government views and religious motifs. So if you are looking to be entertained, you have to have satelite television. For lots of young people the internet is a gateway to information, they download a series or listen to their favourite band´s new album online. It is also an important outlet for free speech, Iranian people are very active in cyberspace. Persian was actually voted one of the most used languages in the internet, recently.
Why did you choose to work at betahaus?
Our treasurer, Shamin Rafat used to have his office here and suggested we join. He spoke very highly about betahaus. So far, we are very happy to be here.