CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in Iran: A Welcoming Nation, But Effect of Rezaian Arrest Lingers

By Mark Joyella 

With sanctions lifted against Iran, that long-sheltered nation stands to profit from increased exposure–and business ties–to the Western world. CNN senior international correspondent Fred Pleitgen says Iran is poised to become one of the biggest exporters of oil and gas in the world.

Tuesday, Pleitgen visited a massive natural gas complex in the Iranian town of Assaluyeh to report on the country’s efforts to capitalize on the end of sanctions. TVNewser caught up with Pleitgen, who’s reported from Iran 6 times over the last 12 months, to ask how reporting inside Iran has changed, and what might come next.

TVNewser: Has reporting in and from Iran changed, and if it has, how so? What stands out?


Pleitgen: Reporting from Iran has not changed much from when sanctions were still in place. The people here have always been very friendly, though often somewhat reluctant to speak to Western media. There are restrictions on what we are able to do because we must get permissions for most filming and interviews that we want to produce. But I do feel that getting those permissions has gotten a bit easier and that many officials are keen to talk about the country’s economic prospects. We also feel a great deal of optimism among much of the population since the nuke deal. Most hope for better economic times.

TVNewser: Do you feel entirely safe working in the country as a journalist?

Pleitgen: I do feel entirely safe when reporting in Tehran. I have never been harassed by people in the streets here and most who are critical of Western media are willing to talk their issues out. The one thing I am concerned about is unknowingly overstepping boundaries that we do not even know exist and then getting into trouble with the authorities. Jason Rezaian‘s case is certainly cause for concern.

TVNewser: What has been the hardest story for you to produce, and how did you overcome the obstacles to get it on CNN?

Pleitgen: Reporting on the struggle between moderates and hardliners during the nuclear negotiations was tough. The hardliners put on demonstrations, especially after Friday prayers, to hammer their point of view home. But at the same time data showed that a majority of Iranians favored the nuke talks that Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani was pushing forward. It was difficult to strike the right balance between the two camps and both sides are closely watching what we put out. The only way to deal with it was to be totally objective and accurately portray both viewpoints.

How is this for an evening view? #cnn #iran

A photo posted by Fred Pleitgen (@fpleitgencnn) on

TVNewser: You’ve shared stunning images on Instagram of an Iran many Americans may never have seen. If Western tourism happens as many think it will, what would be your insider’s advice for visiting Iran?

Pleitgen: My advice would be: Go on a road trip! Iran has very good highways and it is a great way to explore the country and its beautiful landscapes and cities. My trip for starters would be Tehran – then go South and stop at the ancient village of Abyaneh with its beautiful clay houses. Go on to Isfahan and take a stroll over its impressive bridges and then drive on to Shiraz with its ancient mosques and the site of the ancient Persian ceremonial capital, Persepolis. Make sure to eat as much Iranian food as possible along the way!