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.