Do Iran’s actions justify Western media’s coverage?
|Monday, June 22,2009 14:38|
|By Sara Khorshid|
I find it difficult to know and understand what"s really going on in Iran. Every time I log on to the Internet and go to reputable news websites, Iran is making headlines — many of them.
But I am still confused and ignorant as to whether the election result is true or not, and whether the majority of Iranians are against conservative president Ahmadinejad or if the rallying masses constitute a minority within a 70 million population.
Although news feeds about the current situation in Iran abound, the image depicted by Western media is generally subjective, siding with the Iranian opposition in what is shown as a good-versus-evil drama.
Over the past few decades, Iranian elections were known to be fair. Despite the limitations put by the system on running for parliamentary and presidential elections, we generally know that those who manage to make it to official candidacy do contest in fair elections.
Yes, there is a possibility of fraud or inaccuracy, but there is no evidence that this is the case yet, and it doesn"t entail Western hailing of the losing candidate Mousavi as a victim of a conspiracy.
That masses are rallying to support him don"t necessarily mean he is the truly popular Iranian leader whose rights have been infringed upon by the incumbent president Ahmadinejad and the conservatives of Iran. Nejad too has had thousands rally for him on different occasions.
The same goes for other political leaders who are unfriendly to the West, like Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, for whom hundreds of thousands of Lebanese supporters rally.
In my city, Cairo, State Security policemen usually far outnumber protesters and easily crack down on them. They sexually harass protesters, commonly; when my female friends are up to a protest, they make sure to wear pants underneath their skirts, so as to make it less easy for plainclothes forces to harass them. Yet, global media reporting of infamous incidents of protest crackdowns in Egypt is mild — it would be just a small story in the Middle East section in BBCNews.com or CNN.com.
On the day of President Obama"s speech from Cairo, police forces emptied streets and suppressed innocent Egyptian passerbies who tried to walk — let alone ride cars — on streets that are normally busy. My friend"s dad was prohibited from standing in his balcony because he lives near Cairo University. This was not the leading story in Western media outlets.
But when parliamentary elections took place a few months later — with relatively more freedom and fairness than previous elections — and 88 Muslim Brotherhood figures became members of parliament, only then did the winds of change stop blowing. And the media stopped giving priority to Egypt, where a severe, illegal crackdown on opposition was to deepen. Egypt"s parliamentary elections sent an alarm to the West and triggered the fear of Islamists" rise. And "winds of change" suddenly stopped blowing.
So let"s not celebrate yet. Iranian protesters might not be really overthrowing the regime. And the media should pursue more accuracy and impartiality. Iran"s restrictions on Western media don"t justify siding with the opposition, even if violence against peaceful protesters is not acceptable.
* Written for Al Arabiya. Sara Khorshid is an internationally published Egyptian journalist who has covered the politics, culture, and society of Egypt and the Muslim world for the seven years. She can be reached at [email protected]