On Sept. 7, the first issue of the Financial Tribune, a new English-language daily, hit Tehran's newsstands. At 12 pages, the paper costs 2,000 tomans (about 60 cents) — almost twice as much as privately owned Persian-language newspapers. The newspaper mostly covers economic and financial issues, but also news related to the nuclear negotiations.
Some see the publication of a new English-language Reformist financial newspaper as signaling a relative increase in press freedom under President Hassan Rouhani. However, inside Iran, it also means that some are hopeful on reaching a comprehensive nuclear deal with the West, securing the removal of sanctions and witnessing a revival of Iran’s economic relations with both its neighbors and the West.
English-language newspapers in Iran are not common; the Financial Tribune is the country's first and only English-language economics newspaper. Currently, four other English-language newspapers are published in Iran: Tehran Times, which operates under the mayor’s office; Kayhan International, a Persian-language edition of Kayhan operating under the supreme leader’s office; Iran Daily, which operates under the umbrella of the administration’s Islamic Republic News Agency; and Iran News, which reflects of the views of Iran’s Foreign Ministry.
The Financial Tribune's editor-in-chief, Khosrow Ghadiri, is the former editor of Hamshahri newspaper's international section, and has close ties with both Reformists and moderates.
Ghadiri wrote in his first Financial Tribune editorial that “Iran’s economic potential is being mostly neglected,” and that the goal of the Financial Tribune is to “strengthen Iran’s economic relation with the outside world.”
Financial Tribune is owned by a company named Donya-e-Eqtesad-e-Taban, meaning Shining World of Economy. Alireza Bakhtiari, the general manager of the company, is also the general manager of two important Persian financial periodicals: the daily Donya-e-Eqtesad and the weekly Tejarat-e-Farda.
Donya-e-Eqtesad, one of Iran's most popular financial newspapers, supports free-market economics and has been in publication for more than a decade. Tejarat-e-Farda, which celebrated its second anniversary this past June, publishes the work of Iran's most skilled financial journalists. This weekly takes a theoretical approach to the economy and regularly interviews economists in Iran and the United States.
Bakhtiari talked to Al-Monitor about his motivations for publishing an English-language newspaper. “There used to be no source of information available in English for people dealing with Iran’s economy,” he said. “They had to rely on firms, companies or the catalogues published by the Central Bank and the Organization for Investment. There was a serious void in Iran’s economy, and our goal is to fill this void.”
With an eye toward successful nuclear negotiations, the removal of US and international sanctions and the opening of Iran’s economy, he added, “Also, we are hoping to help businessmen and foreign investors introduce their goods via this newspaper.”
Bakhtiari said that the 2013 electoral victory of Rouhani, a moderate, against his conservative rivals, along with the promise of normalizing relations with the West and removing sanctions, motivated him to start the Financial Tribune. “The original idea existed before, but we were waiting for a better situation to make it a reality,” he said.
“Iran has an acceptable amount of political stability and a high level of investment security. Other countries cannot overlook Iran’s potential, and if Iran wants to progress and expand its economic activities, it needs to be connected to the world economy. The recent political developments that were the result of a new administration taking office helped us in publishing this newspaper. Perhaps if these developments had not occurred, the publication would have been postponed. However, the successful diplomacy of Rouhani helped accelerate the process.”
Bakhtiari has three goals in publishing the Financial Tribune: "First, some of our targeted readers are Iranians who are working with foreigners in fields such as the gas, oil or petroleum industry. There are also different embassy staff who live in Tehran and the staff of Iranian embassies in different countries. We are hoping to introduce Iran’s economic potential. Second, we will soon start distributing the Financial Tribune in the region, in Persian Gulf countries and Turkey. Hopefully, after an acceptable period of time, we can start competing with the English financial newspapers in the region. Third, our mid-term goal is to make sure that this newspaper is not only concerned with the Iranian economy. The focus will be on the international economy. Our outlook is international and hopefully we can cover economic developments of different countries in this newspaper."
Bakhtiari said that the Financial Tribune would support an open economy and competition — views to be reflected in the newspaper.
As far as news coverage is concerned, Bakhtiari prioritizes news from the oil and gas industry, then the mining and metal industry, and finally, tourism. The hardest part of starting the newspaper, he said, was finding skilled journalists who knew English.
A member of Tejarat-e-Farda's board of editors spoke to Al-Monitor — on condition of anonymity — regarding the effect of financial periodicals, whether in English or Persian, on the country’s economic process. “Iranian CEOs always pay attention to how the financial and economic issues are reflected by these periodicals. Since Donya-e-Eqtesad and Tejarat-e-Farda are more concerned with macroeconomics than microeconomics, naturally, their readers are policymakers and businessmen instead of everyday people.”
On the nuclear negotiations and the impact they would have on the economy and the success of such newspapers, the journalist said, “Everyone is waiting. If the sanctions are removed, a lot of companies will come to Iran, and it is natural for financial newspapers to welcome any possible opening.”
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