26 April 2010

Final Response to An Iranian Editor

In our last post, I reported on the questions of a senior editor at an Iranian news website. I only responded to the first three and promised answers to the other questions later. Here now are those other answers.

Can any Iranian journalist enter the United States and report on what they consider as “the realities of US society” to their audience?

According to the State Department, an Iranian journalist who wishes to travel to the United States has to go to a U.S. consulate overseas (Dubai, for example) and apply for a media visa. The decision to issue the visa is made by consular officers. Six such media visas were issued in 2009. There are no quotas and no travel restrictions once the journalist is in the U.S. and they can report on whatever they like.

During the last summer and winter, the Persian service of the Voice of America broadcast a picture of an Iranian lady named Taraneh Mousavi and broadcast the story of her arrest, rape and setting fire of her body. Can Mr. Belida say what was the source for this news in VOA? Can VOA present just one more picture of her, any ID document, address of her school, workplace or house, a neighbor, family of this person?

We reported news of her death based on information from multiple Iranian sources. And we subsequently reported the official denials of her death as carried by Iranian media. Later we reported on the fact that Iranian media outlets themselves had contradictory reports on the woman’s fate. According to a senior editor of VOA’s Persian News Network, we do not know for certain if this woman is alive or dead. However the same editor says the contradictory official information could be easily interpreted as a cover up.

Why did VOA zoom in on last summer’s turmoil in Tehran and encourage its viewers openly or suggest to them to set fire to public properties and break the law? Are these actions considered media related work?

The demonstrations and disturbances in Iran following the disputed June election were news. We reported what happened. We did not (and do not) encourage, or suggest, that anyone break the law. It is possible the Alef editor believes that by advertising a link to which people could send videos of police shootings or other forms of brutality, VOA was asking people to break the law. Like other news organizations, we were merely trying to get access to information and images the Government of Iran was trying to suppress. We in fact advised people who were considering sending us video not to endanger themselves or violate laws.

Why did the Voice of America introduce Abdolmalik Rigi as "the leader of popular Iranian resistance movement" while interviewing him?

Rigi was head of a group known officially as Jondollah or the People’s (or popular) Resistance Movement of Iran.

I was extremely pleased to see the spirited comments sent in after the last posting.

A couple weren’t satisfied with my response to the Alef editor’s first three questions, suggesting the answer that all three questions were absurd was flippant. So let’s try again. Here were the original questions – and some new responses:

Can Mr Belida and his colleagues release any news which is against the national interest of Israel?

If the question means “can VOA and especially its Persian service report news that is critical of Israel or critical of Israeli government policy”, the answer is yes.

When the US government closed the case for the September 11th attack in an unfinished way and with no conclusion, which American journalist protested against this decision? What was the conclusion of this possible protest? What was the answer of US government to revelations made in this regard in the 9/11 documentary made by Michael Moore?

Again, the question is a bit confusing (journalists don’t protest, they report) but I’ll take a stab at it. There are, as one of the other comment contributors pointed out, numerous websites and publications that continue to challenge official conclusions about the events of 9/11. Take a look at 911truth.org for example. And filmmaker Michael Moore’s movie and personal views on 9/11 continue to generate discussion that can be followed on-line. Take a look at his site michaelmoore.com.

Can any journalist in the west question the holocaust and present documents to deny the holocaust?

Yes, and non-journalists as well. That few do suggests most people accept the holocaust as a historical fact. VOA’s Persian News Network, on the program “Straight Talk”, recently reported on the holocaust denial issue and profiled five prominent holocaust deniers. The show went on to debunk Iranian misinformation about whether individuals in the west can discuss and conduct research into the holocaust. They can, even in Israel.

By the way, we attempted to get Iranian officials and others allied with the government to participate in that show. They declined, including an editor at the Alef website who called the show’s host “a traitor.”

Might I suggest that as a first step toward greater understanding that journalists like the editors of Alef drop the attitude of confrontation and harsh rhetoric. As one of our recent comment contributors noted, that “just feeds insecurity and suspicion.”


Anonymous said...

Please don't expect them to agree or admit. I am an Iranian and I know the only way for them to work in Iran and not go to prison is talking to you like that. This is the only way to survive!

Anonymous said...

I read your answers to the editor of Alef site. I am not an expert in the field of journalism or politics but as a layman I find your answers fairer than those of the Alef editor. I am an Iranian and consider myself quite familiar with the Iranian political scene. Thus I know what I am talking about. When that editor mentions that he is able to criticize the president, or even the supreme leader, he is right to an infinitesimal extent and that in theory not indeed. He does not mention that the laws are not written by legal experts. The laws, specially those concerning politics, freedom, and human rights are ambiguous and convey interpretable concepts. Alef editor does not mention that hundreds of people are in prison because of criticizing the leader and the president. They say that criticism is permitted but the conspiracy is prohibited. Then they mark every action of yours as an offence and conspiracy or an act of treason. Therefore, they do not have the right to question freedom and liberalism in the western world.
Please do me a favor and ask them in Alef on my behalf that why they translate articles in a Machiavellian way? In a way that is deviated from the true meaning? I consider this deceitful! Is it their way of being fair with their readers? I have seen instances that in translating an article they change the meaning, remove words or sentences and even add phrases of their own in a way that distorts and twists the content to their liking which is support of the current illegitimate government. I am even able to provide you with one instance of this. This is the same with other pote’rists like Kayhan staff. Thank you.

kermani said...


Norman said...

I'm an American. I'm also Jewish, although I oppose the Israeli government's policies. I have Iranian friends. And I have friends from the VOA.

The Iranian editors have raised the excellent question of whether VOA reports negative things about Israel.

The American tradition of journalism is to give all sides of the controversy, preferably with quotes from people on all sides. Does VOA cover Israel like that?

Look at the facts. Look at an example. Search the VOA web site for "Goldstone report," and read a couple of stories http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2009-09-15-voa44-68808237.html http://www1.voanews.com/english/news/a-13-2009-09-29-voa45.html Are they afraid to criticize Israel?

I wouldn't give VOA an "A" on this coverage. I'd give them a B or a C. They gave both sides -- but (at least in these 2 stories), they quoted people from the Israeli side. They didn't quote anybody from the Palestinian side. Then in the middle of the story they say "At least 1,300 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed in the three-week conflict." Oh yeah. A lot of Palestinians were killed. A VOA editor managed to slip in the truth.

Here's a problem for the American government. The Goldstone report was scathing of Israel. VOA has to report this important news, but they also did the best they could to quote Israelis who would defend Israel. It's good reporting, but it's not objective reporting. They're not giving me the truth as best as they know it.

However, the American media as a whole does give all sides (I think). The New York Times does a good job, although many other publications do a better job. http://www.commondreams.org/ Many American publications correctly criticize Israel for the brutal, illegal treatment of Palestinians, and remind us of America's suppression of democracy in Iran.

I'm sure that you, as editors, would like to be free to publish the truth as you see it. (There are some VOA editors who feel the same way.) That day will come, and I hope it will be soon.

I wish I could say that we in the U.S. are free to demonstrate against the government without getting arrested, but unfortunately that's not true. I demonstrated against the Bush Administration along with hundreds of thousands of others to protest the invasion of Iraq. In New York, many of us were arrested for peaceably demonstrating. The police brought false charges -- but they were dismissed when the videos showed the police were lying.

I wish I could say that the police never kill our demonstrators, but that's not true either. We are now commemorating the 40th anniversary of the killings at Kent State.

However, if my government ever threatens to invade Iraq, I'll demonstrate against it again. And if your government prevents you from printing what you want, I'll protest against that too.

Aamer Trambu said...

Im an intl correspondent for the Iranian news channel - Press TV. Your blog posts are very interesting and revealing.

Good work

Anonymous said...

To be fair, trading with the enemies act do constrain Iranian peoples activities in the US quite a bit, your aren't even legally allowed to buy a computer. Countries like Cuba aren't allowed to purchase US origin software. Food is mostly fine though. Fiber optics weren't allowed until recently and they where already laying fiber to/from Venezuela by then, but satellite links still prohibits ordinary Cubans due to costs and technical difficulties to access much of the net or services, they can read expat influenced Miami newspapers though, it also means there's no central censorship like in China. It's not strange that they feel threaten by their treatment. Not that it stops European or Asian tech companies, they happily don't comply with the US laws.

More to the point though, Press TV do have correspondents in the US although only officially at the UN due the trade sanctions. They do air programs that show different sides of American society including the bad ones. Or the negative side. Those are produced by US individuals and companies though. They use studios in US for interviews too. When it comes to the other way around, foreign journalists in Iran don't need minders most of the time or any of that crap. At least not the kind you have to have to move around. Countries like Syria is worse in that regard. Iran isn't a hardline country and really has never been. Not in that regard at least, you'd probably have a much much worse time across the the persian gulf. Even in US allied countries.

All in all US trade sanctions are a hindrance, especially in regards to relations with the US. They are circumventable though, and tech is no problem and software is just pirated as companies get fined if they sell them any. In reality though offering services such as MSN and Twitter or Facebook to Iranians are illegal under US law and Microsoft briefly blocked Iranians from using MSN ironically enough they where pressured to lift the geo block as they wanted the opposition to influence the politics. They have made it nearly impossible for ordinary Cubans to share their thoughts with the world though...