1158 GMT December 05, 2021
Born in 1936, Mohammad Bolouri is a veteran Iranian journalist who was active in the Iranian press, especially in the field of reporting crime/incident news, for over 60 years. In Iran, he is known as ‘the father of investigative journalism’.
He started his journalism career in the Persian newspaper Kayhan in 1967. Later on, he continued his profession in other Iranian print media such as the dailies, Iran and Etemad.
The renowned journalist also acted as the managing director and editor-in-chief of several newspapers.
Bolouri has been the source of many important developments that have taken place in investigative and crime journalism in Iran. He believes that in some important criminal cases he detected the culprits sooner than the police.
Bolouri coined the term ‘White Investigative Journalism’ in Iran, which not only deals with violent and criminal issues, but also focuses on news stories which have humane, informative and positive aspects.
A memoir about his six decades in journalism was published by Saeed Arkanzadeh Yazdi in 2020. Meanwhile, for the first time, a documentary about Bolouri’s life and career in journalism was screened at the 38th Fajr International Film Festival. Amir Farzollahi has written and directed a film entitled ‘Roozegar Bolour’ (‘Bolour’s Time’).
Despite his retirement and old age, Bolouri still writes in Iranian newspapers. His valuable experiences are considered to be a great treasure for young Iranian journalists.
Following is an interview conducted by Iran Daily with this veteran journalist:
IRAN DAILY: A documentary film and a book have been produced and published about your life. What made you decide to do this?
BOLOURI: I wanted to share my memories and over 60 years of journalistic experience for Iranian youths. I followed this objective in two ways. My book was published by Ney Publication in early 2020. Despite the restrictions caused by the spread of COVID-19 in the country, the book has been very well received and reached its fourth edition. The documentary film entitled ‘Bolour’s Time’ shows developments that occurred during the three decades before the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979. It shows the differences between journalism in Iran before and after the revolution. In the documentary film, I talked about some specific examples of criminal events and incidents that have occurred in Iran. Some young and veteran journalists expressed their memories and views about me as well.
What were the main characteristics of the three decades you mentioned?
Journalism has changed drastically during the past years. In the three decades before the revolution, journalists entered the editorial office of a newspaper early in the morning every day. Depending on the news areas assigned to them, they left the office and went to the heart of the community to prepare their articles and reports. Unlike today, 80 percent of articles were prepared in this way. Thus each newspaper had its own identity based on its content, which was new to the people. Now, however, journalists are captivated by the screens of their computers and cellphones.
With the advent of new media, some believe that the era of newspapers and print media is over. What is your opinion about this?
I think the media that has gradually emerged over the past years, with the advent of computers and the Internet, cannot replace newspapers. A newspaper has its own characteristics which today’s media do not have. First of all, there is a special pleasure in holding and reading the pages of a newspaper. Print media provide an opportunity to reflect more on topics and cover different aspects of a subject, while other media deal with various matters superficially.
The articles of the new media are often newsworthy, but soon become obsolete. The contents of newspapers, however, are more analytical, dealing with topics in a deeper manner.
As a journalist reporting criminal cases, you were present in many important situations and your actions have sometimes been very decisive. Tell us about your experiences in this respect.
We have managed to discover some crimes before the police. For example, Houshang Varamini was a serial killer of children. I uncovered his crime and showed the place of the victims to the police. The murderer dumped the bodies in the wells of Mesgarabad in Varamin, in southern Tehran Province.
Moreover, some crimes which we discovered were important in the field of Iran’s relations with foreign countries. Once a German expert named Ernst Lange went missing in Iran, and it left a negative impact on Iran-Germany relations. The Germans wondered what had happened to the German citizen in Iran and blamed the Iranian government for it. I found his murderer and showed Lange’s body to the police. This discovery was in favor of the Iranian government because it proved that this murder case had no political aspect, and the government had no role in it.
As a veteran Iranian journalist, how important do you think it is to cover crime/incident news?
First of all, let me say that no other news articles attract such a large audience and increase the circulation of a newspaper. And this issue is not limited to our country. News of incidents and criminal events have such a feature throughout the world.
For example, when we uncovered an important murder case in the Persian daily Kayhan, the circulation of the newspaper suddenly doubled. However, I believe that in investigative journalism we should not focus only on criminality and the negative aspects of events. Thus, I created ‘White Investigative Journalism,’ in which the humane dimension of a subject is also taken into consideration.
For example, there was a time in Iran when a number of people who were in dire need of heart transplants lost their lives due to a lack of heart donors, because it was considered sinful to remove the hearts of patients who had been pronounced brain dead.
At that time, there was a physician who took the list of people with brain death and went to visit their families and pursue organ donations. I tried to encourage the members of such families to donate the hearts of their beloved ones to those in need. For instance, at that time, the heart of a boy was transplanted to a girl. Every week, I went to the girl’s house with the boy’s mother, who placed her head on the girl’s chest to hear her son’s heart beating. I published reports of these emotional meetings in the newspaper.
The move helped provoke huge emotional responses in the society. Afterward, a number of reports were published in various newspapers to show that donating the hearts of patients with brain death to those in need is not a sin; rather, it can save a human life. In this way, people were encouraged to do this, and the ugliness of the issue was eliminated.