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Home > fundamentalism / shrinking secular space > UK-Iran: a call for ethical reporting, from an Iranian journalist

UK-Iran: a call for ethical reporting, from an Iranian journalist

Sunday 26 September 2010, by siawi2

Source: EAWorldView, Friday, September 24, 2010, Scott Lucas in EA Iran

Related Video Feature --- An Interview with Masih Alinejad: “Sometimes We Have to Pay for Freedom”

Iran Special: A Letter to Christiane Amanpour about the Media, “Freedom”, and Ahmadinejad (Alinejad)

Masih Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, writes Christiane Amanpour, the broadcast journalist of America’s ABC News who interviewed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad this week. Originally in Rah-e-Sabz and translated by Hasty Pezhman:

Ms Amanpour,

In our country Iran, those who control the prisons and have control over citizen’s lives are the absolute power.

Those who can interpret the law as they wish or change it for their own benefit should be strongly challenged. Those who have the means to change the fate of their citizens should be questioned seriously. The criticism and questioning of those in power, above all the President whose winning of the election has cost hundreds of lives, is encouraged by the Iranian people.

The people of Iran know that, because we, Iranian journalists, are not able to do this right now, the responsibility has fallen on other journalists, like you, in the foreign media. We would like to think it is this responsibility to criticise absolute power that has resulted in the line of interviewers wanting their time with Mr Ahmadinejad.

In Iran there is no such thing as freedom of speech. This is why we appreciate it more than anyone else, and we admire the fact that you have been willing to interview Ahmadinejad in this practice of freedom. If you ask the real victims of the lack of freedom in Iran, “What do you want from these interviews by the foreign media, on your world filled with threats and misery?,†you would probably get a common answer. They all believe it is good to question him so that the whole world can see the real Ahmadinejad.

However, these one-sided interviews with Ahmadinejad have always brought more pain for Iranians and we believe they infect the concept of real freedom. When you prepare the stage for a person to talk to the whole world and influence people’s views about the existence/non-existence of freedom in his country, and you justify this act by giving him the freedom everyone else has in your country , you should take the rights of people of his country into consideration. You should acknowledge a nation whose freedom has been violated by this same person and whose lives have been infected by his never-ending lies.

You as a journalist are merely doing your job, even when interviewing a dictator, but your work is affected by the lack of justice in the case. What you lack is an equal chance given to the other side of the “Iran case†, the Iranian people. Last year when people were being killed in the streets of Iran while protesting, when four young innocents were tortured to death in Kahrizak Prison, the Iranian government deported every last one of the foreign journalists. All the Iranian journalists who opposed the government were imprisoned, silenced or forced to leave the country. In that same year, as soon as Ahmadinejad dared set his foot outside Iran, the world gave him the chance to feed the media with his usual lies, denials and excuses.

A year later, while those arrested journalists are still in prison and the silenced ones are still under serious threat, while those who killed people have not been tried and not even the foreign journalists --- the same ones who prepare this stage for Ahmadinejad --- are given permission to go back to Iran to carry on with their work, your media is giving him more chances to present the world with more shameless lies.

We do understand you were doing your job when showing Ahmadinejad the video of the mothers of the two American detainees, Josh Bauer and Shane Fattal, so that he can play his usual “I am innocent†and “others are to blame†game, but shouldn’t you do your job differently when it comes to a dictatorial regime?

We did not expect you to make him listen to the voice of all those Iranian mothers who hold Ahmadinejad responsible for their children’s deaths, to Sohrab Arabi’s mother saying that he son participated in a silent protest [on 15 June 2009, three days after the election], that he did not set fire to any cars or houses, and that was shot to death by people who directly or indirectly work for Ahmadinejad. To the voice of the spouse of Ali Hasanpour, saying that her husband was shot in the head when trying to help another person who was shot also, his death a threat from the Islamic regime to the people of Iran that they fear of even caring for one another. We did not expect you to make him listen to the voice of all those whose beloveds are in prison because of criticising Ahmadinejad.

But would it be too much to expect you to ask him, as he is so willing to be interviewed by you outside Iran, why wouldn’t he permit you to go to Iran and allow you to interview some Iranians and ask them the same questions? Questions about the freedom of speech that he insists exists there fully and unconditionally?

You would not ask Ahmadinejad if the Iranian regime would allow Mr. Obama to appear on Iranian state TV and talk freely to the people of Iran, because you know very well what his answer would be --- that the Iranian TV is free and independent and that he can’t meddle with their decisions, the same way he has always answered the questions you have asked many times about the judiciary of Iran.

He is partly right. What the judiciary does has nothing to do with him, so why question him about it? Ahmadinejad should be questioned about all the suppression and the crackdown enforced by organisations under his supervision. He should be asked why the newspapers are being closed down because of complaints made against them by his minsters and members of his government like his close advisor Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

Ahmadinejad is the head of the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance. The ministry that dictates who to interview and who not to interview to any foreign journalist that travels to Iran, that dictates this to an Iranian journalist travelling outside Iran. This is the ministry that has banned journalists from interviewing those who have been opposing Ahmadinejad’s government and whose rights have been violated constantly by his agents. This is the ministry that has banned journalists from interviewing even those who have had high positions within the Islamic regime in the past.

I personally was interrogated in the passport office of Ahmadinejad’s goverment for hours merely because I had requested an interview with Mr. Obama. My passport was confiscated, and I eventually lost my interview in the end. This is the same ministry that interrogated eleven of my colleagues in the airport for several hours and confiscated their passports because they intended to report on the US Presidential elections.

While Ahmadinejad is not being questioned about that for what he is directly responsible, would it be too much if we expected you --- instead of competing with the other media sources over a more challenging interview by asking the same old questions of the same person who denies everything and anything --- to be a bit more creative and, for example, request an interview with the university students who have been banned from their studies by the Ministry of Science, working directly under Ahmadinejad’s supervision, and who have been imprisoned because of protesting this? Or to ask Ahmadinejad to let you travel to Iran and interview people like Mr. Farahani, Tajzadeh, Arabsorkhi, Nabavi, Ramezanzadeh and all those political activists who have claimed the election was rigged, who claim they have documents to prove this, and who have been jailed for daring to make this public?

We wished that, instead of competing to interview Ahmadinejad over and over, you would think of the people in Iran and of those who have lost lives under this regime and that you had tried once to hear them. We wished instead of sitting there and listening to repeated lies, you had asked Ahmadinejad to allow you to talk to the people of Iran, those who are not allowed to travel to America.

Is it against the principles of journalism and international standards of the media if a professional journalist, when interviewing the head of a dictatorial government, a government that has silenced any voice other than its own, tries to create an opportunity for a whole nation suffering under that dictatorship, a chance for their voices and stories to be heard as well?

Ms. Amanpour,

I know it’s too much to expect you to present Ahmadinejad with the questions of Iranian mothers waiting endlessly for the trial of the murderers of their children, as you present him with the requests of the American mothers waiting for their children to come home. But you had an opportunity to ask Ahmadinejd in front of millions, as a sign of goodwill and a proof of the freedom that he shamelessly insists exists in Iran, to allow you to travel to Iran and interview those mothers whose children were killed in the streets and in prisons, without his Ministry of Culture causing you problems or his Ministry of Intelligence later imprisoning those whom you interviewed.

Before anything a journalist is a human being, and in a situation like this when the normal people in Iran, who are beting killed and imprisoned, are in serious need of help, people of the world --- including the journalists --- can offer them a hand and at least try to create for them opportunity. An opportunity equal to that given to an Ahmadinejad whose lies have destroyed the lives of many.


Masih Alineja