BOB GARFIELD: While there are plenty of foreign journalists based in Iran, the U.S. State Department has granted visas to only two reporters from the Iranian state media. We spoke to one of them, Maghsoud Amirian, about the restrictions he works under, restrictions placed on him not by his own government but by ours. He doesn't speak English, so we spoke to him via an interpreter. Maghsoud. Welcome to On the Media.
INTEPRETER (FOR MAGHSOUD AMIRIAN): It's my pleasure.
BOB GARFIELD: For foreign correspondents the world over, New York is a pretty plum hosting. When you got the assignment, what was your reaction?
INTEPRETER (FOR MAGHSOUD AMIRIAN): Normally, because we follow the news of our colleagues as much as possible and hear about all the limitations from our friends, naturally you would worry a little bit, and you lose interest in coming to New York.
BOB GARFIELD: And what are some of those limitations? I understand for one thing you cannot travel beyond a radius of 25 miles from midtown Manhattan.
INTEPRETER (FOR MAGHSOUD AMIRIAN): In order to come to America, or better yet, to New York, we need to go through a long procedure to obtain a visa. When we finally succeed in getting this visa, we encounter a type of visa which is called C-2. This type of visa is particular to flight attendants, and, as you know well, it would deprive us from the rights that regular foreign residents have. The truth is, it's not possible for us to obtain a driver's license with this kind of visa. And again, as a reporter, it's not even feasible to take pictures in the streets. When we are speaking of 25-miles limitations, we have to accept this limitation that the U.S. Government imposes upon us, whether good or bad.
BOB GARFIELD: Is this because you are presumed, as an employee of the state news agency, presumed by the U.S. government to be a spy for Iran?
INTEPRETER (FOR MAGHSOUD AMIRIAN): This we have to ask the American government, whether they have this view of me or people like me. I really don't know.
BOB GARFIELD: The official view of the United States back in Iran is of the great Satan. Are you obliged to file only stories that portray America that way or can you share some of America's greatness, like, I don't know, democracy and frozen pizza, HBO?
INTEPRETER (FOR MAGHSOUD AMIRIAN): [LAUGHS] First of all, I was limited to my 25 miles, if not less, so I did not have the chance to go and see things like frozen pizza. And we have so much work that it does not allow us the time for things like that. But on the subject of democracy and freedom, I really need to feel freedom for myself. I feel like I have entered a place where they have created a 25-mile prison for me. I have not seen my family for 14 months, including two of my children. They do not issue them a visa to see me. I am caught here with a type of visa that allows me only one entry and one exit. I cannot even use my vacation time. So, again, I need to feel democracy for myself. How can I report things that I have not seen here?
BOB GARFIELD: You are obviously under very onerous restrictions here, but if you were free to travel, what kind of stories would you want to cover?
INTEPRETER (FOR MAGHSOUD AMIRIAN): In that case, I would write about the good things. But right now, I am not seeing much of good things.
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] Are you followed by FBI agents?
INTEPRETER (FOR MAGHSOUD AMIRIAN): Even if they are after me, I wouldn't pay any attention to them. But I would be happy to have a companion.
BOB GARFIELD: [LAUGHS] Maghsoud, thanks very much. Maghsoud Amirian is a reporter for the Iranian State News Agency, IRNA, based in New York. Our translator was Amir Vahab. [MUSIC UP AND UNDER]
BOB GARFIELD: Coming up, child porn, and the posthumous appeal of JonBenet Ramsey. This is On the Media from NPR.