Robie has spent several weeks traveling in the country on sabbatical and finds that the media negativity far from the reality of the “most friendly” country he has ever visited.
“Iran attracts an onslaught of negative media in New Zealand and Western media. But is it fair or deserved?” the senior journalist wrote in an article released by Asia Pacific Report on Friday.
“Given the rising geopolitical tensions, as I was about to visit the country for several weeks as a visitor on sabbatical, I was keen to see the realities on the ground in Iran behind the sabre-rattling.”
“The headlines were chilling as we flew into Turkey and then Iran. ‘All out war’, trumpeted The New Zealand Herald, as being an imminent response to last month’s surprise drone attack knocking out almost 50 percent of Saudi Arabia’s oil production, blaming the attack on the Islamic Republic without convincing evidence,” he explained.
“The next day the Herald belatedly ran the other side of the story, quoting Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s response denying the allegations and warning that Iran would defend itself in the case of a U.S.-Saudi attack while offering the ‘hand of friendship and brotherhood’ for overseeing security in the Persian Gulf.”
During the journey Robie held talks with some Iranian academics, including Professor Reza Ebrahimzadeh of the Islamic Azad University at Isfahan, who argues that foreign news organizations need to do a far better job in providing “context and history” about Iran to promote global understanding.
Robie, who covered the Asia-Pacific region for international media for more than two decades and was an associate professor in Auckland University of Technology School of Communication Studies in 2005 and a professor in 2011, concludes that “more journalists from New Zealand need to go to Iran to see for themselves.”
Where does the wrong perception come from?
Many visitors to Iran believe that certain Western media often portray Iran negatively, saying there is a widespread misunderstanding about the true nature and safety of the country, which is tainted by the reputation of some of its more politically unstable neighbors.
In this regard, Skift Inc., a New York City headquartered media company that provides news, research, and marketing services for the travel industry, in a July article noticed a hint of a “perception problem” deemed to be fueled by the Trump administration’s rhetoric toward Iran.
Official answers to the query comes from the U.S. State Department, which has had a travel advisory against Iran since 1979, citing “the risk of kidnapping, arrest and detention of U.S. citizens.”
“It is a country that is often portrayed as unwelcoming, but the reality is quite the opposite,” said Jenny Gray, the global product and operations manager of the Australia-based Intrepid Travel.
“Iranians are warm, friendly and eager to show off their country to foreigners. The feedback from our travelers is a testament to this.”
The 2019 Travel Risk Map, which shows the risk level around the world, puts Iran among countries with “insignificant risk”, a category where the UK, Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, and Finland are placed in.