World leaders and Iranian officials have made historic progress toward an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program and a quid pro quo deal to ease sanctions in the last year. In November, an interim deal was agreed in Geneva, which was followed by the first in a series of meetings in Vienna in February to set a framework for a final deal.
RFE/RL’s Hannah Kaviani reported from both meetings for Radio Farda,
RFE/RL’s Persian language service. She says that while the real power players are sequestered away behind closed doors for most of the talks, allowing little access for journalists, there are still countless advantages to reporting from the ground during high-level international negotiations, even if that “ground” happens to be in hotel lobbies and sleepy press centers.
“It’s a way to get the big picture,” said Kaviani. “You see people’s facial expressions, and the whole atmosphere gives you a better sense of what’s happening.”
Though the rare press statements made by spokespersons after meetings didn’t convey much, Kaviani says her time in Geneva and Vienna taught her how to make use of the many off-the-record conversations held on the periphery of the meetings. In addition to adding to her understanding, she said off-the-record information helped with planning broadcasts.
“When you get a sense that something might happen, you can contact your colleagues and say ‘watch out, be ready for this, have some analysts on hand.’”
Austria -- European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (L) and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif smile at the start of a conference in Vienna, March 18, 2014.
The collegial environment extended to many of the reporters covering the talks, with journalists from numerous outlets sharing snippets of information on Twitter and social media.
Kaviani noted feeling discomfort at first when observing the members of Iran’s official press corps, “especially because I’m a woman and I’m not [veiled],” Kaviani said “but also because I work for Farda,” which is an alternative to state-run media in Iran.
Kaviani joined RFE/RL in 2008, having left Tehran amid what she describes as increasing social pressure -- the advent of the “morality police” who enforced a dress code -- and increasing detentions of students and activists, among them her friends.
She calls the work she and her colleagues do at Radio Farda “a precious thing,” given that the heavy-handed system of censorship in Iran means people have very few options for independent news.
“We interview western diplomats too and challenge them on issues like sanctions,” said Kaviani. “We try to give the full picture.”