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CNN Chief International Correspondent
Hi all, I’m looking forward to getting to know you a bit better on Parlio. I’m interested in your questions about Syria and Iraq, the changing role of Russia, where next for the U.S. – especially with the election coming up – and shattering the glass ceiling for women.
This Q&A took place between 11/5/15 and 11/15/15. Unanswered questions have been hidden
12 questions
As a British-Iranian, do you find it difficult to be objective in your news coverage/investigations about Iran and/or Britain? I'm Iranian-American and maintaining objectivity when talking about Iran is something I struggle with.
I’ve never had a hard time being objective. I feel like I come from so many ethnic and religious backgrounds and I’ve now travelled so much. I have been thrust into a career that has focused on ethnic and religious strife, and therefore as a British-Iranian I have had the privilege of seeing everything from all sides. And I’m very conscious always of what my job as a journalist is. Now, while I believe I am as objective as anyone, perhaps I am more sensitive and more knowledgeable about the Iranian culture, politics and people than maybe people who have absolutely no experience or have never known Iran before. So, in that regard, I think it’s a positive.

So, if you’re asking me whether I go soft or hard when reporting on Iran the answer is an emphatic no. If you’re asking me whether I can delve deeper, understand more, use my knowledge of the language and culture to bring a broader counter-intuitive story that goes beyond the stereotypes, then that answer is yes.
How do you think international news reporting has changed with the increased access to the internet and mobile technologies over the last few decades? Thank you!
International news reporting has changed because each new development in technology helps us broadcast and send our information far and wide. The technology helps us with our platforms. However, it is still about storytelling, it is still about good old fashioned reporting in my book - that’s what I believe. And reporting and journalism and news coverage means going there.

If we are going to purport to be the eyes and ears of our viewers, our listeners, our readers or those who go online to find us, then we have to actually do them the service of going there to get the content, the facts, the stories. And I think that one of the problems with cutting back on international coverage and relying on too many of the bloggers, the activists, the fixers, all of those people out there who suddenly become instant journalists because of this new technology. We can’t fact check, if that’s all we’re going to rely on. The other problem, of course, is that many of us have spent a long, long time building our experience, our careers and therefore we hope our credibility, our integrity and, a certain, to use the common parlance, ‘brand’, so that you can trust what you hear from us. And I hope that is still how you view me: as somebody who is trustworthy, who is credible, who goes the extra mile, who believes in going to the source for the information.
Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Dear Christine, The media in many new, weak, or poor democracies tends to be highly ideological and influenced by/paid for by political parties, while journalists are often paid for stories at worst, or provided with funds to help them cover stories, at best. The U.S. notion of independent journalism is fairly unique, even in parts of Europe, where more political alignment is understood. Is it realistic to believe that the media can become a "fourth estate" in more countries? If so, how can this be catalyzed? If not, can a more ideological media still be a force for accountability?
I think this is a really important question and certainly in my travels around the world I have noticed an alarming new trend in many emerging democracies, or post-revolutionary societies, or, for instance, Arab Spring societies – whatever they might be. There is a really insidious development and that is local journalists have been forced into politicised positions, forced to take sides at peril of their lives, of their freedom, or their ability to work. And that has created very polarised and skewed societies and views.

It is very, very dangerous and I’ll give you a very clear and recent example. I’ve just come back from Turkey where they’ve just had a new election and the ruling AK party staged a stunning comeback. And, as you know, they have quite a lot of problems with freedom of expression and allowing journalists to operate, if they’re critical of the government. So, I did push the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu quite hard on press freedoms and on the freedom of journalists themselves. And the comments in the local media after that were very revealing. They said, ‘Christiane Amanpour, who works for CNN, can get away with asking those tough questions, but we local journalists here in Turkey, if we put those questions to anyone in our government, we would be fired from our job, or worse’. That’s their view. And therefore there is this dreadful dichotomy that’s going on.

International journalists can travel to various countries and try to bring an objective view of what’s going on, try to hold leaders to account. But, local journalists are having a very, very hard time. And I belong to the Committee to Protect Journalists – it’s an activist group, for journalist safety and freedom of expression and the figures and the statistics are staggering and depressing. The main cause of death among journalists around the world continues to be deliberate – in other words, murder, silencing, killing the messenger.

Increasingly journalists are wounded, jailed and generally censored and it’s very dangerous and it has a deep chilling effect and that in turn has a deeply negative effect on civil society and government.
Editor-in-residence & lecturer, Stanford d.school
Thanks for joining us. The data show that American readers do not consume international news coverage to the same extent they consume national (particularly entertainment and culture) reporting. How might news organizations change or pivot their coverage to attract broader audiences (assuming they should)?
Well of course I believe that all news organisations should show a lot more international news because what we’re talking about is simply stories about people – people like us – who just happen to live in different places. But, who have the same impulses, who have the same desires and needs – who are human just like us.

Now, clearly every country pays a lot more attention to their own domestic stories and their own domestic politics and their own domestic affairs - that is just a given and who would expect it to be any different. However, I do believe, that a country as important as the United States, particularly on television, should devote a lot more time to storytelling from around the world. Let’s take the Syria war, which is today’s great big crisis and which is having blowback in terms of ISIS --American’s joining ISIS, Europeans joining ISIS. For the first time we may have blowback in our own countries from people who hold our passports. They don’t need to lie, cheat and steal visas to come and commit mayhem and violence on our territory – they have passports. This is something we need to understand and the only way we can understand it is by having regular reporting on these issues.

What about in Europe today – the crush of refugees coming from Syria, the majority are from the war in Syria, escaping Assad and now of course Russian bombing of Syria. We need to know these stories. We need to be able to hold our leaders to account. We need to be able to force these stories onto our leaders agendas so that they then cannot turn around and say, ‘oh my goodness, we’re so surprised, what are we going to do with these refugees!’ There are hundreds and thousands of refugees coming to Europe, Europe is having a hard time dealing with. We’ve got a rise of extremist parties who are using this influx for their own xenophobic political ends. We could have been telling the story for much longer or at least putting it on the agenda for much longer and forcing action much earlier. And my strong belief, because I am from the Bosnia War generation, is that had there been more reporting of this in the mainstream media in the United States, and much more heavily in Europe as well, we may have been able to hold our leaders to what they really should have done. That is end the Syria war. Because none of these crises will end until the Syria war is over.
National Security Journalist for The Washington Post
Based on your knowledge of today's Iranians, how long can the Supreme Leader keep from exploding the open competition between the conservative factions represented by the Revolutionary Guard group on one side and President Rouhani and his supporters on the other?

Will it be settled by the next election which will determine makeup of the group that picks Khamenei's successor?
Walter Pincus, it’s great to hear from you. You have been studying this a lot longer than I have! My view is that this deal, the nuclear deal that was signed with Iran, has obviously given the moderate President Rouhani a huge leg up. However, at the same time, the hardliners who see their entire power base under threat have mounted a formidable challenge to him. And in the middle of that is the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, who, as you know, never comes down on one side or the other in many of these instances and constantly plays one side off of the other. This is a problem but you can be assured that the vast majority of the Iranian people who are under 21 – it’s a very, very young, highly educated, highly sophisticated, highly plugged-in Iranian population – they want what Rouhani is promising. They have had it with hard line revolutionary rhetoric and the hard life that they have to endure so let’s see what these elections do.

I feel that the arc of history is bending towards the will of the people in Iran, however, having covered the first reform President Mohamed Khatami, and having seen him win a series of local, municipal and other such elections, including parliamentary elections, then suddenly the hard liners cracked down and used every tool at their disposal to make sure that moderation didn’t win and that Khatami was stymied. We’re going to have to see what happens in these elections, but the truth of the matter is that Khomeini is old and who knows how long he is going to last. And there is a new generation waiting in the wings and I think that this election is going to be very, very important in who they are going to elect as the next supreme leader.
Senior Lecturer at Bush School of Texas A&M University
What is your view of the history of the US and CIA's involvement in the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953?
Well, history is a continuum of action and reaction and of course the overthrow of Mossadegh in 1953 by the CIA along with Britain had its blow- back and that was eventually the Islamic Revolution of 1979. Now, very interestingly, I had the opportunity to interview Mohamed Khatami, the first reform President of Iran. One of the very first questions I asked him was, ‘in retrospect all these years later would he almost apologise for the Iran hostage crisis,’ where Tehran took 53 American diplomats hostage and kept them for 444 days. And he answered for the first time in a way that said sorry, and yes, he acknowledged that this was at the height of the frantic, fevered early days of the revolution and he apologised for the hurt and pain and indicated that maybe had it been later in the revolution that action wouldn’t have happened.

Thereafter in 2000, Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State - who happened to be my husband’s boss - gave a groundbreaking speech in Washington, in which she almost apologised for the 1953 CIA coup against Mossadegh. They were two very groundbreaking, public declarations from each side.
So much TV news has become an echo chamber with people only tuning in to hear what they already believe and think they know, but you manage to maintain both your integrity and credibility. How do you do it? What can we, as citizens, do to encourage more TV correspondents to follow your lead?
Well this is a question in several parts. Your first point about many platforms and news organisations and programmes falling into the trap of becoming echo chambers is correct. Reinforcing peoples strongly held views, not introducing any new DNA in terms of information and differing views. I have always fought against that, because I’ve always considered that as a reporter my job is to go out and get all the differing views, in order to be able to bring a wide range of debate into the public sphere. I’ve had to do that and that’s how I’ve pursued my career and my news coverage.

I do believe that one of the down sides of the internet, of social media and of all the tools that make it possible for an individual to choose and to go only where he or she wants to go, or thinks they want to go, is a little dangerous. Because the algorithms now point you in the direction - they know your history of what you may be interested in. So I’ve always believed that you need to be exposed to a wide variety of information just to see a bigger picture of what’s going on in the world.

And I think encouraging more TV correspondents, and frankly more journalists in general, to do that, by simply demanding it would be good! Go online and say you want something different. Let the bosses know that you are interested in a whole range of things. We do also have to be very careful that as a civilization we are not being herded into either silos or into a group think.
Do you have any advice on how to ask good questions?
I ask myself this question all the time! Now, it’s my job to ask top leaders in the world the best questions I can muster, and the bravest questions. And I think the only advice I can give is the following: You’ve got to be forensically prepared. This is not a question of going for a cup of tea with a general or a president or an official or a militia leader, or whoever it might be. You have to be more prepared than the person you’re talking to as you have to keep following up and make sure they don’t get away with whatever spin, or facts and figures that may conflict with known reality. It is a very high pressure job to be sitting in front of a person in a position of authority and to try and hold them to account, and to keep an interview going that gets to the heart of the matter and gets to the facts. Also, don’t expect to be liked and again, it’s incredibly difficult for those who face severe consequences like local journalists who do this job.
Welcome to Parlio! Which interview was the most disturbing for you, and did one of them change dramatically your opinion on a key issue?
It’s great to be at Parlio, thank you for asking your question.

I would say the most disturbing interviews I conducted were during the Bosnia war, when I was dealing with genocide and when I had to face the genocidal maniacs who were committing this wanton slaughter of innocent civilians. Nothing could have prepared me as an ordinary young woman, on one of her first ever major assignments, for the horrendous slaughter of innocent men, women and children right in front of my eyes. In Bosnia, in all the towns and villages where I spent four years during the war, and after, trying to get to grips with the situation and trying to tell the world the truth. Slobodan Milosevic, he’s no longer here - he’s dead – but questioning him was a very surreal experience. Radovan Karadzic, Ratko Mladic - the two leading perpetrators who are now on trial at the International War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague, for their role in the genocides at Srebrenica and throughout the Bosnia war.

It was frightening and it was sickening and it was disturbing, and sometimes I felt like I was knocking my head against a wall when I was interviewing them. As they would be like, ‘no, us killing innocent people? No way!’ No matter how many pictures, no matter how much footage we showed them of concentration camps and mass graves and just the worst of the worst, you know there was just no acknowledgment of the black and the white truth. And that was very disturbing but I’m proud that I never gave up, and my colleagues never gave up and that we kept asking these tough questions, including to Western officials, like President Clinton, and leaders of Europe. For most of that war, the leaders did not want to intervene. Bosnia, the Balkan wars, were a real failure of collective international security, today it’s Syria. And Bosnia sent the last influx of refugees into Europe, today it is Syria. And I just wish everything that we journalists are doing in Syria would make our leaders act and stop that war.
Human Rights Foundation and Oslo Freedom Forum
Thanks for joining us! My question relates to your work defending press freedom. Who do you think is the most inspiring journalist working under dangerous conditions today?
I think there are a lot of inspiring journalists. Any journalist who works in dangerous situations is inspiring because that human being has decided to get off their comfortable perch and go thousands of miles away to tell a story that could cost them their lives, a story that they think has to be told to bring justice, to hold corrupt and evil governments or violent extremist groups to account. That comes at huge and increasing personal cost.

I think many journalists working in this field are inspiring just for being willing to get engaged. And I think special praise and special acknowledgement should be given to the local journalists, as they are unable to leave and they are trying to shine a spotlight in the dark and hidden corners and to hold their leaders to account and to challenge their evil and violent extremist groups and to try and bring comfort to their people, but they can’t leave the scene of that crime. Therefore, they are in even bigger danger than some of us who can just go in and go out.
Author of "Now I Know Who My Comrades Are"
Anne-Marie Slaughter has written that despite all the progress women have made, it is still a great struggle for successful career women to balance work and family. Do you agree?
I’ve always said that I think that, as women, if we’re willing to work hard and train hard and be educated and take all the steps that any individual has to to get ahead, then there is nothing we cannot do. There is nothing that we should not do. There is nothing that our gender, our sex, should prevent us from. No closed off avenue anywhere, anytime.

I do believe, however, that it is probably difficult for women, and I think men too, to be all things at all times. You can’t be all things to all people all the time. I am a working mother and I must say that I have tailored my career in the last 15 years to be a good mother and to be a mother who is there for her son. I believe that is my duty and that is what I want to do. I am very, very fortunate that I got so far ahead in my career before I had my son and became a mother and that was, to an extent, deliberate. I knew I couldn’t give everything at that time and, mind you, I was putting my life on the line and living away from home for weeks, months and years on end. I could not have been a good mother or a good wife if I was doing that.

Today I think that it is time that women are treated equally in every form and fashion. Women should be paid equally for the same job and women must be given parity and equality because that’s justice. As Christine Lagarde, the formidable managing director of the IMF said to me, ‘it is a human right - it makes common sense to treat all women equally. And, if that doesn’t work, it is economically the right thing to do, as when women are fully part of the work force, are fully part of society then every nation’s GDP rises as a result of that. Money talks! Women’s equality-- the time is now.
Teaching Assistant at Concordia University
Hello Khamoone Christiane,

How can a typical person who intends to gain an impartial and more realistic perspective on what happens in the world verify the validity of the news produced by hundreds of agencies on a 24/7 basis?
I assume news agencies are to different degrees influenced by governments, corporations, their missions, their main audience etc. However, we know they possess different skill sets to cherry pick and present the news in an impartial looking way.
It’s incredibly difficult for anyone to verify the proliferating news sites and quasi news sites that so many individuals are now delivering. It’s not just journalism, it’s citizens blogging, it’s activists blogging, and some of it is accurate and some of it isn’t. That is why I think you still need to rely on those who you trust, who have been at this game for a long time and have rules and standards, hopefully who build a credible brand. That’s why I think the explosion of information, and some of it is incredibly useful, and some of it is from places we can’t get to – makes us wary. But, if you come to us, you get it verified and fact checked and I think you get a much higher level of certainty that what you’re getting is objective, fact based truth.