Iranian Journalists and Their Psychological Wellbeing: A Study by Dr. Anthony Feinstein

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Thursday, September 17th, 2015

Thursday, September 17, 20156:30PM - 8:00PMThe Vivian and David Campbell Conference Facility, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
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Fellowship in Global Journalism at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto is pleased to host the launch of a landmark new study by Dr Anthony Feinstein on Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Iranian journalists.

Dr Feinstein is a professor at the Depart of Psychiatry of U of T. The report was commis-sioned by Journalism is not a Crime, an awareness raising campaign founded by the Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari.

Mr Bahari was jailed for 118 days in Iran’s Evin Prison in 2009 after covering the protests that followed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s disputed reelection. His detention was the subject of his best-selling book Then They Came for Me and the film Rosewater by Jon Stewart. Mr Bahari started the Journalism Is Not A Crime campaign to raise awareness about the harassment of Iranian journalists by their government, including 55 still in prisons across Iran, and to provide legal and psychological assistance for hundreds of other persecuted reporters.

Dr Feinstein, a neurologist and professor of psychiatry, is the world’s leading authority on PTSD among journalists. His 2003 books Dangerous Lives: War and the Men and Women Who Report It and Journalists Under Fire: The Psychological Hazards of Covering War, were the first major works to look at the mental health of war reporters.

The report – titled Iranian Journalists: A Study of Their Psychological Wellbeing – is the first to investigate the emotional health of Iranian journalists. Dr Feinstein found that re-porters in Iran suffer extreme levels of trauma and PTSD because of their work – nearly 60% (58.8%) have been arrested, almost 20% (19.3%) tortured, and 10.5% assaulted. More than half had some form of depression with almost 30% of those surveyed suffering from severe depressive symptoms.

The findings were similar to those among journalists in Mexico – a sample comparison country where journalists are also under severe threat. Western journalists who have worked in war zones also showed similar symptoms to the Iranian reporters. Dr Feinstein’s study also found significantly increased PTSD symptoms in those Iranian journalists who had been arrested and jailed by the authorities.

Anna Maria Tremonti, host of CBC Radio One’s show The Current, will chair a panel dis-cussion between Mr Bahari, Dr Feinstein, and an Iranian journalist recently released from prison. The panel will consider both the report and the wider situation for Iranian journalists who regularly experience harassment, violence and detention.

Anna Maria Tremonti

Anna Maria Tremonti has been the host of CBC Radio One’s The Current since it first burst onto the airwaves in November of 2002.

She brings a mix of hard-edged journalism and hard-won empathy to a 90-minute program that tackles everything from the politics of the day, to the changes that affect our society, to the stories of individuals whose personal journeys and traumas affect us all.

The Current marked her return to radio after 19 years with CBC Television, including two years as a host of the flagship investigative program the fifth estate. For nine years she was a foreign correspondent for The National, based in Berlin, London, Jerusalem and Washington. Her assignments abroad included ongoing coverage of the war in Bosnia, the fall of communism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as well as the politics of the Arab world, Europe and the United States.Prior to that, Anna Maria reported from Parliament Hill, and worked as a reporter in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Alberta.She began her career in private radio, at CKEC in New Glasgow Nova Scotia.

Anna Maria has won two Gemini awards, and a life Achievement Award from Women in Film and Television Toronto. During her time at The Current, she and the program have won numerous awards at the New York Festivals, including: Gold for Best News Documentary of Special (2013), Gold for Best Talk Special: Interview (2009), Silver for Best Newsmagazine (2013), Bronze for Best Talk Show Host (2008, 2014 and 2015), Bronze for Best Coverage, Breaking News (2015), and Bronze for Best News Documentary or Special (2014). Her work at The Current also has been recognized with an Amnesty International Canada Media Award (2012), three Gracie Awards (2011, 2014 and 2015), and several Gabriel Awards and RTDNA Awards, including the Adrienne Clarkson Diversity Award (2013), the Peter Gzowski Information Program Award (2009, 2011 & 2014) and the Gord Sinclair Live Special Events Award (2014). With Anna Maria at the helm, The Current in 2012 also won the Canadian Journalism Foundation’s Excellence in Journalism Award (Large Media Category), and was a finalist for that top honour in 2013.

Anna Maria is a graduate of the Communications Studies program at the University of Windsor. She has honorary doctorates from the University of Windsor and Carleton University in Ottawa.

Maziar Bahari

Maziar Bahari is an Iranian Canadian journalist and filmmaker. He has produced a number of documentaries and news reports for broadcasters around the world including BBC, Channel4, HBO, Discovery, Canal+ and NHK and was a reporter for Newsweek from 1998 to 2011.

Bahari graduated with a degree in communications from Concordia University in Montreal in 1993. Soon after, he made his first film The Voyage of the Saint Louis (1994). His films include Paint! No Matter What (1999), Football, Iranian Style (2001), And Along Came a Spider (2002), Mohammad and the Matchmaker (1994), Targets: Reporters in Iraq (2005), Greetings from Sadr City (2007), Online Ayatollah (2008), The Fall of a Shah (2009), An Iranian Odyssey (2010), From Cyrus to Ahmadinejad (2011) and Forced Confessions (2012). A retrospective of Bahari’s films was organized by the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam in November 2007. Bahari has been a jury member of number of international film festivals. In September 2009, Bahari was nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award for Concord.

During the 2009 Iranian Election Protests Bahari was arrested without charge, and detained in Evin prison for 118 days. Then They Came for Me, his family memoir, was published by Random House in June 2011. Rosewater, a film by Jon Stewart based on the book and starring Gael Garcia Bernal, is currently being released globally. In 2013, Bahari launched, which focuses on current affairs, culture and politics, and is available in both Persian and English.

Dr Anthony Feinstein

Anthony Feinstein received his medical degree in South Africa. Thereafter he completed his training in psychiatry at the Royal Free Hospital in London before training as a neuropsychiatrist at the Institute of Neurology in London. His Master of Philosophy and Ph.D were obtained through the University of London. He is currently a professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto.

His neuropsychiatry research focuses on the search for cerebral correlates of behavioral disorders associated with multiple sclerosis, traumatic brain injury, and hysteria (conversion disorders). In patients with MS, detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies have shed light on the pathogenesis of depressive disorders and current work is exploring changes in the brain associated with pathological laughing and crying. His work in the field of conversion disorder has involved developing functional MRI paradigms that complement psychoanalytic interpretations of why patients develop disabling, quasi-neurological symptoms. Finally, Dr. Feinstein is involved in a series of studies unrelated to neuropsychiatry but nevertheless of relevance to current issues within our society. The questions being addressed are: how are journalists affected emotionally by their work in war zones and what motivates them to pursue such dangerous occupations?

In 2000-2001 he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship to study mental health issues in post-apartheid Namibia. This led to the development of Namibia’s medical system to be able to respond to mental illness. He is currently engaged with a similar project in Botswana.

Dr. Feinstein is the author of ‘Dangerous Lives: War And The Men And Women Who Report It’ (Thomas Allen, Toronto, 2003), ‘The Clinical Neuropsychiatry Of Multiple Sclerosis’ (Cambridge University Press 1999, with a second edition in 2007), ‘In Conflict’ (New Namibia Books, 1998), an autobiographical account of his time as a medical officer in the Angolan and Namibian wars, and ‘Michael Rabin’, America’s virtuoso violinist (Amadeus Press, 2005). His new book, ‘Journalists Under Fire: The Psychological Hazards Of Covering War’ (John Hopkins University Press) was published this year. He has also published widely in peer-reviewed journals and contributed to many co-authored books.


Fellowship in Global Journalism, Munk School of Global Affairs

Journalism Is Not A Crime

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