Media on Iran


The western media, it seems, is reading a lot more into Iran’s presidential election and that too in a superficial way. In comparison, the response of western governments has been measured and cautious.

Of course, the current situation is unique in that no election result in Iran in recent years has been contested like the present one. The possibility was always precluded by the Council of Guardians which selected only those candidates it deemed fit. This time was no different, including the candidature of the reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi, backed by another reformist Khatami. The ideological divide became sharper during the campaign, even if both candidates did not differ much on the issue that concerns the west most – Iran’s nuclear programme.

Given the media attention Mousavi’s campaign received, the results obviously appear to have been carefully contrived in favour of the incumbent president, Ahemdinejad. Little wonder, the protests have been declared bigger than any since revolution, or at least since the student protests of July 1999.

That the current protests are mainly focused in Tehran or that the incumbent may have actually won the elections are facts not taken seriously by the media. Not many analysts point out that after the conservative president’s victory in 2005, the conservatives won the parliamentary election too only a year ago in 2008 and with no allegations of rigging. And while Mousavi’s victory is being projected by the media reporting from selective areas, it isn’t reported that Ahmedinejad as the next president was considered a safe bet in most parts of Iran. Nobody questions that Mousavi’s educated, technology savvy supporters may have successfully articulated their protest, but they could well be in a minority.

Only a handful of analyses point out that the quest for change and liberalism that fascinates the western sensibility may not actually be the sweeping sentiment within Iran; the religious ethos of the Iranian people and their revolutionary zeal may still be intact, even if the west does not wish it so.

If Ahemdinejad has won the election, why he needs to repress the protests, is the question raised by the Mousavi supporters as much as the international media. But when did the regime stop its repression? The reformist newspapers were closed down, the bloggers held, channels of communication blocked even before the elections. The current phase of repression is being reported in real time in an overdose for the world. That is the only difference.

The dynamics of democracy in Iran are complex and not easily understood by outsiders. Iran has had regular elections which have seen large turnout of voters every time. The reformist president Khatami won them twice, even though the Supreme Leader and the Iranian establishment rendered his reform process ineffectual. But that did not deter Iranian people from going out to vote in huge numbers in elections soon after Khatami stepped down.

A majority of people going out to vote for candidates whetted by the Council of Guardians should mean some sort of a faith in the system.

Agreed that instruments of democracy have been carefully selected in Iran and acceptance of opposing views certainly does not form a part of those instruments and hence the repression. But choosing the instruments of democracy is a privilege available to Iranian people, as it is to other peoples of the world. The media cannot pick and choose its standards. It must report objectively and impartially. Freedom, liberalism, reform and modernity should have been balanced by anti-corruption, modesty, populism, and piety but in the coverage of Iran elections, there is no semblance of balanced reporting or informed analysis. It is one-sided by all accounts.

TheNews.com.pk

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