This one-sided AFP piece, (based on David Ignatius’ interview with Ahmadinejad in the Washington Post) turned into one of the many irresponsible headlines we have seen in the last few days. The Daily Telegraph led with:
“Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ready for nuclear dialogue”
“Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has indicated he is willing to make a deal on limiting Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium, but expressed doubt in the West’s willingness to negotiate in good faith.”
This is the same week where Iranian officials have admitted to intentionally deceiving Western officials. This, after years of failed negotiations with Iranian officials who have become notorious for dragging their heels and concealing nuclear sites and information from the IAEA.
UPI, another wire service, has also been guilty of uncritically reprinting his propaganda:
“We do believe that free elections and self-determination is the right of all nations, and that the people must rule their own destiny. Vis-a-vis Syria, this is our viewpoint,” the Iranian president said. “I do hope that a contact group can be set up as soon as possible so as to establish stability with a national understanding and agreement to hold elections. Whatever the people of the nation choose must rule that nation. And, of course, the foreign interventions and meddling must come to a stop.”
Asked if Syrian President Bashar Assad should be allowed to run in any new election, Ahmadinejad said “peace and mutual understanding must be turned into national decision-making processes. I do believe that all nations can play key roles. We’re all hurt by the current conditions on the ground in Syria.”
Concerning Afghanistan, Ahmadinejad said he believes “that any nation that can help stability independence and progress in Afghanistan is obliged do so, particularly the neighbors and friends of Afghanistan. We have always been ready to do so.”
Reprinting his propaganda without contextualizing or indeed challenging his often ludicrous claims is both lazy and dangerous. This talk of stability from an Iranian leader whose forces are meddling in Iraq, Afghanistan, Southern Lebanon, and most recently in Syria is hypocritical and distorts reality. This superficial talk of “free elections” is ludicrous and almost painful. Everyone remembers how this brutal Iranian regime put down the pro-democracy demonstrations and the ‘green movement’. Mir-Hossein Mousavi, the opposition leader, can’t get interviews with David Ignatius, Charlie Rose or Piers Morgan. He has been under house arrest ever since those famous protests.
The AP, the world’s leading wire, also disappointed. In this piece, they uncritically reprinted the lies of the Iranian president, painting him as a champion of dialogue and moderation. Ahmadinejad’s meddling in Syria is summarized by this dismal quote:
“We like and love both sides, and we see both sides as brothers,”
The Washington Post interview was perhaps the most disappointing. I would expect more from a seasoned commentator and journalist such as David Ignatius. To loyally reprint Ahamadinejad’s claims in an opinion piece (alongside the hour-long transcript of the interview), without seriously challenging the Iranian president and his claims does his readers a disservice.
I am a committed proponent of free speech, the freedom to express one’s opinions as entrenched in the US’ great first amendment. But free speech is a two-way street, it requires journalists to challenge, debate, counter and contextualize. David, Where are the questions about the state of Iranian women (Just this week women were banned from 77 majors at universities)? Where are the questions about Iran’s oppressed minorities? Iran’s “non-existent” gays? Iranian terror in Thailand and Bulgaria? The regime’s oppression of pro-democracy movements? Iran’s Revolutionary Guards actively supporting the brutal terror of Assad? What about some serious questions regarding the continued Iranian nuclear deception? The lack of access to Iran’s nuclear sites? Where were the questions about Parchin?
At least Piers Morgan had the common sense to raise some of these issues, as uncomfortable and inconvenient as may be for the Iranian leader. (Unfortunately, the headline for the CBS interview by Charlie Rose and Nora O’Donnell played into the hands of Tehran’s propaganda machine, just like Ignatius: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad denies Iran developing nuclear weapon.” Really now, what a scoop.)
The first amendment is there to challenge (as these reports in the HuffPost and NY Times successfully do), not to passively accept the words of one of the world’s most oppressive human-rights abusers. A pathetically soft line of questioning followed by the regurgitation of Ahmadinejad’s propaganda in an opinion piece does not live up to the standards of journalism that your readers deserve, Mr. Ignatius.
Too bad the Washington Post didn’t give the task to its star interviewer Lally Weymouth, as in past years. At least she would have known to ask the tough questions.