14 April 2010

An Iranian Editor Fires Back

When I wrote a reply to the editors of six Iranian news websites who had complained about international news coverage of Iran, I wasn’t sure whether they would respond. Well, now the senior editor of one of those websites, Alef, has fired back. He, and I’m only assuming it’s a he, isn’t happy.

For example, the Alef editor suggests I had no business commenting on the joint letter because VOA is “the Official Media of the Government of the United States, a country that has done cruelty to Iran for the past 60 years.” (He also accuses me of “pride and arrogance,” suggesting this is an American trait and the reason why “all the efforts to improve the ties” between the United States and Iran “have not worked.”)

The editor then responds to the three questions I posed.

1. Are Iran’s domestic media free and able to report objectively, accurately and comprehensively on the country’s affairs?

Alef senior editor: “It depends on their professional capacity and facilities. In most cases, within the framework of law the answer is yes.”

2. Are western journalists allowed unrestricted access into Iran and freedom of movement after their arrival?

Alef senior editor: “If they don’t break the law the answer is yes. But there are numerous records of breaking the laws by journalists and western spies in the cover of journalists in Iran. These records obviously have made the Islamic republic of Iran very pessimistic about western journalists working in Iran.”

3. Do Iranian authorities allow citizens to cooperate with foreign media –including providing western news outlets with news and pictures? Are they allowed to have access to them?

Alef senior editor: “Within the framework of the law, yes. Employees and cameraman of some news agencies and western TV networks in Iran are usually Iranians. About the second part of the question, if the western news sources are not against the Iranian laws, access to them is free, as many of the thousands of western news sources are accessible in Iran. But the misuse of this freedom by some of the western media has made the Islamic republic to be very pessimistic about the honesty of these media and make limits regarding the access to them.”


Thus, we learn that in Iran, muzzling the press is fine as long as it is done “within the framework of the law.”

But the Alef editor wasn’t finished there. He had new questions for me:

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


2. 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?


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


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


5. 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?


6. 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?


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


I’d like to focus in this post on questions 1, 2 and 3. And here is what I want to say: in the U.S., journalists can and do ask all sorts of questions, even when the questions are, well, absurd. (Can the same be said of journalists in Iran -- assuming of course that they ask questions "within the framework of the law"?)

As for the other questions, let me do some research and address them in another post. This isn’t to suggest the questions have any more merit than the first three but they are quite specific and I want to be precise. Stay tuned.

16 comments:

Keith said...

I'm not sure how I got to this page, but this conversation hits at the heart of the hypocrisy that permeates much of American media. When I compare American news reporting to the BBC or CBC, it is obvious that most American news agencies see themselves as an arm of the American Government. It is difficult to receive unbiased news. In fact, it appears to me that many American news reporters pride themselves in demonstrating to the "government" how privileged they are to have "freedom" by serving as a PR vehicle that covers America's flaws and exacerbates problems of nations on their xenophobic hit list (e.g. Iran, China, Venezuela).

As far as I see it, American news agencies are more interested in inventing news than reporting it.

Nima said...

I am agree with keith! I am an Iranian. Journalists cannot ask or write about different things in Iran. There are many Red Lines in Iran like Iranian supreme leader. But the question is, can American journalists do this? Just let me give you an example. After recent Iranian election, VOA Persian did not cover media published from Iran; they only mentioned what was going on in Iran. It was obvious that, they were limited to show only those allowed news. Because at that time, USA government was hope to negotiate with Iranian government. After about 4 days, just when president Obama condemned violent actions of Iranian government, VOA Persian started to show Iranian protests and even in some cases mentioned some incorrect news about Iran! So, the question is why? Probably, as keith said, because "You are arms of American government".

Anonymous said...

Mr. Belida, I believe your arguments are WEAK, and you are beholden to a sense of maintaining the status quo, and since you DO NOT speak, write, or understand Farsi, your adjudication of this issue is based on the translation that is provided you through biased sources. You should either do an independent research on your own, or stay out of it. You are not qualified to respond to this type of question.

ConcernedVet said...

The good news is that on a citizen to citizen level, most of the poeple in Iran and in the United States seem to get along just fine. We want no harm to come to any of us.

For officials of U.S. Government officials to fall into the trap of political rehtoric and publicly threaten the pain of war against the majority of people who live in Iran, those who are trying to live decent, productive lives and have no animosity toward anybody else, is a huge, terribly unfair mistake. Iranians have a right to pursue productive lives without interference from Governments.


The current government of Iran hurts the day to day life of its citizens by being confrontational and threatening to those inside and outside of Iran. That just feeds insecurity and suspicion and causes unnecessary wars. I am guessing that the majority of us citizens don't feel that there is any excuse for waging yet another destructive, pointless, wasteful war.

Michael said...

I think you've been too flip in your reply here--the Iranian editor's questions seem sincere. Is this a great opportunity to address these sorts of myths? I would have provided him with links to many 9/11 Truther websites and publications that operate without government intervention, with links to the hundreds (thousands?) of articles and news reports each week that have an anti-Israel bias, with pointers to the thousands of freely published books and articles questioning the holocaust. Yes, those freedoms are all real here in America, and this can be easily demonstrated.

wendymaddy said...

Everyone knows you can say anything you want in the USA about anything, but that doesn't guarantee it will be published. Sometimes you have to publish your own opinions or get a book published. You can stand up and comment at legislative sessions, and write your reps. all you want. You cannot plot the violent overthrow of the government or threaten an elected official with bodily harm. Michael Moore walks around free despite his criticism. That is not true in Iran. No one can say that Islam is not the only true religion, or they will be arrested, flogged, fined or jailed and have no right to disagree with the established state religion. We do not have a state religion, yet we are forced, since 1954, to say "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance, since Eisenhower decreed that it be added. Because he was a respected WWII general, he got his way. But I was one of the kids who forced to add it. I didn't like being forced to say the Pledge in school from kindergarten, to two flags in the schoolroom before I got my "free" education that my parents paid taxes for me to have. I don't think anyone should be forced to swear allegiance to anything as a condition precedent to attending a public school. I have would defend my country in a hot minute, but it must be my CHOICE, not forced obligation. We all need to think about how we citizens of the entire world can come together with a common set of rights & obligations, transcend geographic boundaries, to achieve a just worldwide society. We can do this in many small sections of the world. We should have common justice systems, no state religions, freedom of speech & action except bodily harm to others or plotting violence. We need freedom to communicate without the interference of any government. It is a great pity that most of the world's population has its mental and physical hands tied by their oppressive, closed governments that are unelected and unfair to anyone who wants a different system that is fairer to all. Let's put our heads together and come up with a better way. Democracy in its purest form seems to work all right, but we really need to vote directly on all issues, instead of through elected officials, and we need to be able to bring up our own propositions for a vote without having to get a lot of signatures first, which corporations pay people to do with their vast resources. We need to do something about multinational corporations that are enveloping the world with their tentacles. It is no good for us, and we have to rein them in once and for all with laws that divide them up into much smaller, privately owned companies with only one executive and a small geographic territory, or one family group of partners like husband and wife or brother and sisters. Chains are no good for us, either, destroying locally owned businesses, and malls stink, too, becaues most of them are owned by only a couple of companies that buy others out when they try something on their own. We don't need a Wall Street, or any of the derivative financial instruments they offer, since they are just a useless, bloodsucking bunch of parasites who do not offer any product, but have just made it into a gambling den for people hedging their bets. Their corruption is alarmingly rampant, and has been for years. Let's get rid of stock exchanges & corporations. Stocks aren't worth the paper they're printed on. Corporations are gigantic Ponzi schemes that make Madoff look like an amateur. The pros haven't been caught - yet. Let's catch 'em!

Anonymous said...

Yes. I agree in general with Keith. America NO DOUBT is a great country and its people in general are good people, though recently the "genes and tendacies" of pre-civil war era appear to be rising for the dead again.

As for media this is one country that continues to baffle me. There is so much freedom in America but most of it is driven by braggadocio both at the people level and hence, as if empowered, at the media level as well - the stop and crawl to peek at bad news or a fender bender mentality here is, well, almost in-human. Fox News is an example of an open no-shame tell twisted or make it up "news" reporting. I love the good and the best of America - people and all but I try as heck to get real news from outside the country - after all there is a whole world out there not just the US and I CERTAINLY do not get NEWS about the world in the US only what fits in the American braggadocio and politics of the day.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I am not sure how free the U.S. press is these days - since they rely so much on the Gov't giving them access we don't see much coverage of the stories like the Black Hole of Bagram and the Camp No torture/killings in Guantanamo. Instead, we see a sanitized newsfeed from the so called "War on Terror"

Anonymous said...

The question of censorship is interesting. No story about Israeli security can be released without censorship by the military. Even some US reporters teaming up with Israeli journos submit to censorship.

Meanwhile, mainstream corporate media do a lot of self censorship. Among the taboo subjects are why the US goes along with "strategic ambiguity about Israeli nuclear weapons, the history of Israeli arms smuggling from the US, and the Israel lobby's dominance of congress through campaign contributions.

On these topics, PressTV does a better job.

Anonymous said...

Regardless of how much freedom America's press claims, one has to admit the courage of this Iranian for at least being honest by using the phrase "with in the framework of law" regardless of wat it implies. I wonder if the American media can admit that?? Else if we wanna claim freedom of press, then we aught to be showing how the countries that we've invaded are being raped day in and day out under the guise of "war on terror" through media and military means. While on the subject i wonder why there was not a whole lot of coverage about the fate of American soldiers who gang raped an iraqi minor and set her on fire and shot dead her entire family including her baby sister??

kim said...

Like it or not we cannot say for sure whether media in any part of the world is completely free. Even in USA there are lines drawn especially in this war against terror.Lots of material voicing the views of government were spread out of fear or patriotism even in a free country like USA.
Iran is no exception when it comes to freedom of media, the only difference is the degree of control.
Hopefully the social media after all the attempts to control it will overcome this problem of pressurizing and will be able to provide truth without boundaries in true sense.

Laurie said...

"I’d like to focus in this post on questions 1, 2 and 3. And here is what I want to say: in the U.S., journalists can and do ask all sorts of questions, even when the questions are, well, absurd."

What a wishy-washy response. You'd better forget about proceeding to question number 4 and beyond. Instead, go back to question 1, again.

Anonymous said...

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

No, in many of the leading nations of the west; France, Germany, UK, etc.. denial of the holocaust is a crime punishable by fine or even imprisonment. In America, denial of of the holocaust can result in dismissal from a teaching/research post. The VOA editor is either unaware or purposely misleading in their response.

traffikator said...

>>>closed governments that are unelected and unfair to anyone who wants a different system that is fairer to all. Let's put our heads together and come up with a better way. Democracy in its purest form seems to work all right<<< One of the problems associated with these governments, is massive corruption, wasteful spending, launching of unncessary wars, among other atrocities. Look at Iraq and Afghanistan for example.
What is "wishy-washy response"? Do you have a better response?
>>No, in many of the leading nations of the west; France, Germany, UK, etc.. denial of the holocaust is a crime punishable by fine or even imprisonment. In America, denial of of the holocaust can result in dismissal from a teaching/research post.<<
One of us will ultimately prove to be well lets just say stupid. Hopefully you can read your statement once again and see what conclusion you can come to. In America you are free to do and say more things than you can in Iran. Hate speech is not even banned here in the USA! In Iran, they teach that Israel does not exists. It is not even shown on there maps! You are also free to accept the result of your actions. You are free to tell your boss to ph**k himself. YOU ARE FREE TO SAY IT!!! But you may get fired! You are not free of the consequences. And please note that not all bosses will fire you for saying that! You can say and deny the Holocaust all you want. It "can result in dismissal from a teaching/research post", but probably not from the grocery store, or from operating a tractor trailor or from your practice as a Medical Doctor or Dentist. Just listen to Fox, Beck, Limbaugh, Teabaggers and tell me how much limitations there are to free speech? Of course there are some kinds of limits and possibly ceusures, and there should be; but is it as bad as you are tryig to make it out to be?

>>>it is obvious that most American news agencies see themselves as an arm of the American Government. It is difficult to receive unbiased news<<< I will have to agree with you to a degree. You can get more opinions masked as news and lots of news tainted by opinions.
Nima-you dare to compare Iranian freespeech to American free speech? It would be an enormous waste to further respond to your nonsense!

Anonymous said...

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

Helen Thomas wasn't even allowed to question Zionism, i.e. the Colonization of Palestine by Germans, Poles, etc...