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Iranian Journalist Waits For Obama

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Iranian Journalist Waits For Obama


Iranian Journalist Waits For Obama

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  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
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In June, Masih Alinejad, a high profile newspaper reporter and blogger, arrived in the U.S. with a tantalizing possibility of an interview with President Obama.

Now, most journalists consider a one-on-one interview with the president a professional coup. But for Alinejad, the goal is not just professional advancement, it's quite a bit more complicated than that. Iran prohibits journalists from interviewing American officials. Alinejad decided to proceed anyway.

She was able to obtain a visa to enter the U.S. from London. But several weeks after arriving in Washington, her request to interview Mr. Obama was denied. She remains in the U.S. But now, Iranian authorities have been made aware of her quest. So, what does she do now? Masih Alinejad joins me now in our Washington studio. Welcome, thank you for coming.

Ms. MASIH ALINEJAD (Journalist, Iranian Labour News Agency): Hello. Thank you very much.

MARTIN: So, take me back to the beginning. How did you get this idea to interview President Obama?

Ms. ALINEJAD: Last November, 11 of my colleagues were planning to come to the United States just to cover the presidential election in United States. But unfortunately, all their passport was confiscated in the airport by the authorities. And they couldn't get the passport back. So, in that time I decided to come to United States without the permission from Iranian government.

MARTIN: Did you have reason to believe you would get the interview with President Obama?

Ms. ALINEJAD: Yeah, why not? In the course of the past three decades, American journalists have frequently visited Iran. Since 1979, they have been able to interview exclusively many of the top political figures of the Islamic Republic starting from Ayatollah Khomeini to all Iranian presidents - Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad. Why can't Iranian correspondents walk into the White House and interview American president?

For President Obama, because of his strong word: change and yes we can, so I believe, yes, we can because we haven't had any diplomatic relation for 30 years. And when Obama said the extended hand if you open your fist, so I thought I have to do that on my own even, I mean, without getting permission for our government.

MARTIN: Well, it's true that the first one-on-one interview that he did after he was inaugurated was with a journalist from the Middle East that so - but what I'm wondering is did you have any commitment? Did you have any promise that you would get this interview or you just thought: yes, I can?

Ms. ALINEJAD: Yes, because when I sent a letter to President Obama, I was not that much sure. But when I got a response from the United States Embassy in London, it was quite good response. So - and I ask them, is there any possibility to give me this journalistic visa? So they told me to bring a letter from my newspaper organization, which is absolutely dangerous for Iranian newspaper to send a letter to White House, and then I did it.

So I traveled a long way and past lots of adversities. But from now, all I can see, it's a closed door in front of an Iranian journalist.

MARTIN: Did they give you an official no? Did they actually say no, or is it that they have not yet said yes?

Ms. ALINEJAD: I received a call from the State Department, and they said White House said no. But there is hope, and I stay in Washington for two or three months, and it might happen.

MARTIN: So what are you going to do? I mean, you've already had your passport confiscated once when you were back home. You did get it back. You were able to travel here. What are you going to do now?

Ms. ALINEJAD: So, of course, it's complicated because I want to be clear, and I wrote all the process, and I put it on my Web site because if you don't do that, they are going to, you know, kill you and find what are you doing here. So that's why I wanted to be transparent, and I put all the information through - on my blog.

And then they wrote, even Masih knows, when she came back here, she will be arrested. But I don't believe him because I didn't have anything wrong. This is just my job, and I just asked an interview. And I'm going to go back in Iran when President Obama accepts this interview because I believe President Obama is worth to take that risk.

MARTIN: Masih Alinejad, she writes for Iran Labour News Agency. She's a columnist for Etemad-e Melli, and she publishes a popular blog in Iran and, as we have discussed, she's seeking an interview with President Obama. Good luck to you. Thank you for speaking with us.

Ms. ALINEJAD: Thank you very much. And I promise you, when you come to Iran, I will open the door, and I will do my best.

MARTIN: Oh, thank you.

Ms. ALINEJAD: Thank you.

MARTIN: We should mention that we have asked the White House to respond to this story. And so far, we have not received a reply.

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