Nazila Fathi covered turbulent events in her native Iran for years as The New York Times correspondent. She learned to navigate the complicated system that tolerates reporting on many topics but can also toss reporters in jail if they step across a line never explicitly defined by the country’s Islamic authorities.
Fathi recalls one editor telling her what journalists could do in Iran: “We have the freedom to say whatever we want to say, but we don’t know what happens afterwards.”
Five years ago, Fathi was covering the aftermath of Iran’s hotly contested 2009 presidential election, when demonstrators flooded the streets to protest a vote they said was rigged in favor of the incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The government warned journalists to stop covering the street demonstrations, which often turned violent, but Fathi continued to file stories for the Times.