From Teheran to Tampere: My Journey as an Iranian Journalist 


My friends once told me that pursuing journalism as a foreigner is not possible. I was hopeless. Working in Finnish media has been a priceless experience for me, not just in my work life but even in my personal life. I can be myself without self-censoring. I express my feelings and write freely!   

As an Iranian journalist I must emphasize that the lack of freedom of speech in Iran’s media is a great challenge. Even cooperating with international media is not safe, because the approach of the international media towards the Iranian government is not aligned.  

I had worked for more than a decade in a news agency and various magazines in Iran. I came to Finland during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020 to do my master’s degree in global and transnational sociology at Tampere University. At that time, I continually followed the media coverage of the Corona news.  

While talking with Persian speakers, I encountered challenges, particularly among Afghan immigrants facing serious problems. Insufficient language skills contribute to their reliance on friends and family for daily information, despite Yle broadcasting in Persian (Farsi) twice a week. Those who speak English depend on English news from Yle. 

This existing gap inspired me to create a page on Instagram and translate daily news and posts into Farsi. To my surprise, I attracted followers and received encouraging feedback.  

My journey in journalism in Finland started in March 2023. I received a message from one of my online groups that said: “If you have worked as a journalist then you are eligible to apply for this position”. 

At that time, I had submitted my master’s thesis and was searching for a job. Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences was conducting a training course for immigrants with a journalism background, which would last for a year with a six-month internship at a Finnish media company.  

I only had two days until the deadline, with no ready resume for journalism! I did not miss a minute. Finally, I was accepted. I was happy.  

In the program, we learned about the working culture of Finnish media. My two colleagues and I were assigned to Helsingin Sanomat. The internship also involved working at Haaga-Helia, where we produced multilingual articles for its news website, Satakieli.  

The first time that I went to Helsingin Sanomat as an intern, I met the producer of Foreign News. It was a memorable experience. Being in the editorial room suddenly brought up memories from years ago: busy days in the editorial room, interviews, and competing with other media to send news faster.   

The producer was a professional and supportive person. We talked about the plans and agreed on the working process. Then I was assigned to a Lifestyle newsroom. The editorial office was bigger and better equipped than the one I had experienced in Iran.  

The experience of working in the editorial room was exciting. I am so grateful to work with Helsingin Sanomat, which is one of the largest and most trusted publications in the Nordics. I received full support from my editor, mentor, and colleagues. Working in a different atmosphere, language, and culture was very new to me, but with their positive approach I felt that I was a part of the team.   

Based on my academic background and work experience, I have always been interested in issues related to culture and society. Therefore, I intended to focus on the integration of immigrants, especially women and children.  

I recall my first published article about integration of immigrants and personal experiences. I received positive feedback from my editor, as well as from both Finnish and immigrant readers. The article emphasizes the challenges posed by the integration process in Finland and the advantages of the new reformed integration law for immigrants.  

Additionally, the article captured the attention of NGOs working on integration issues. Some of their comments highlighted how closely the story aligned with the goals that they had aimed at for years. It was gratifying to convey the message I intended through the story. 

One of the comments that touched my heart stated:  
”Now I understand how much Finnish friends play an important role in improving the quality of immigrant life.”  

Moreover, my second story received more recognition than I expected. It focused on how Finns treat children with respect. Many Finns appreciated it because the story highlighted strengths that they had forgotten about.    

This experience has shown me that if the media are open to being more diverse, all journalists, both immigrants and Finns, can work better to change the narratives of minority and immigrant communities. 

My journalism journey also includes another phase. For six months, I faced a long daily journey from Tampere to Helsinki. 

As a mother, my hands are full. I have two young kids aged eleven and seven. My husband is not permanently based in Finland; mostly I have raised the children by myself due to his work. 

Living in Tampere, I would leave home at 6.30 to catch the train to Helsinki. It was especially challenging during the darkest and coldest seasons, which I, as an Iranian, found particularly difficult to adapt to. Returning home in the evening, my second shift began – a mother’s job of cooking, cleaning, and assisting with the kids’ homework.  

I called the train time my mobile editorial office. It was the best place for me to concentrate and work. While balancing work and life was undoubtedly challenging, the experience was worthwhile, and I embraced it happily. It boosted my confidence. 

Now, journalism is not an option removed from my list of jobs. The door is open though, I have a challenge with language. I believe that, with time, I can break this barrier.  

Journalisti is publishing articles by international students from Haaga-Helia to mark the 100th anniversary of Journalisti.