Weekend long read

1) Writing at the Jerusalem Post, Jonathan Spyer reviews the current situation in Syria.

‘The international news focus has long moved on from the Syrian conflict. Behind the oft-stated clichés of the conflict “winding down” and of regime survival or victory, however, a complex and often deadly reality remains. […]

Assad regime apologists have sought for a long period to present a view of the war in which the status quo antebellum was in the process of being restored. This image does not entirely correspond to reality. Assad, with Iran and Russia, controls around 60% of the territory of Syria. The area east of the Euphrates controlled by the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces constitutes roughly 30% of Syria. The Turkish-guaranteed Sunni Islamist area in the northwest covers the remaining 10%.’

2) At the ITIC, Raz Zimmt takes a look at an Iranian charity.

‘“The Foundation of the Oppressed” is the largest charitable foundation in Iran and the second largest economic entity in the country. Since the late 1980s, the Foundation of the Oppressed has become a large economic holding company controlling firms and groups in the sectors of services, industry, mining, energy, construction and agriculture. The Foundation operates under the direct supervision of the Supreme Leader Khamenei and maintains a tight working relationship with the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). The Foundation plays a central role in Iran’s efforts to expand its economic role in Iraq and Syria, as a lever to entrench its influence in the region. At this stage, the Foundation of the Oppressed and firms operating under it are not under American sanctions, and it is unclear whether the recently announced sanctions against the office of the Supreme Leader will include this foundation too.’

3) Also at the ITIC, a report on the new Albukamal Border Crossing.

‘The new border crossing between Syria and Iraq at Albukamal is considered strategically important by Iran. That is because the crossing is vital for the land bridge Iran seeks to construct between its territory and the Mediterranean Sea. The route allows Iran to send forces, supplies and weapons through Iraq to Syria and from there to Lebanon. It can be assumed that Iran is of the opinion that the land bridge will enable it to reduce its dependence on risky aerial and naval routes. The new crossing, when it opens, will enable larger numbers of vehicles to enter Syria and make it easier to preserve secrecy (since it is farther from residential buildings). Therefore it is likely that the new crossing is being constructed with Iranian aid, and possibly with Iranian involvement. In addition, Iran participates in securing the area between Albukamal in Syria and al-Qa’im in Iraq by using Shi’ite militias deployed permanently in the region.’

4) The Press Gazette reports the NUJ’s reaction to the BBC’s recent agreement to reporting restrictions imposed by Iran.

‘The morale of BBC Persian journalists has been “deeply affected” by a management decision to abide by reporting restrictions in exchange for access to Iran, the National Union of Journalists has claimed. […]

The union said the “professional integrity” of BBC Persian journalists “has been undermined” by the move. Iranian authorities continue to target journalists at the London-based news service in a bid to silence them.’

 

 

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The BBC and media freedom – theory and practice

Visitors to the BBC News website may have noticed that disclaimers appeared in a number of reports by the BBC’s Beirut correspondent Martin Patience published on its Middle East page in the past few days.

Inside Iran: Iranians on Trump and the nuclear deal

Inside the former US Embassy in Iran

Inside Iran: What Iranians think of stand-off with US

The same disclaimer also appeared on other platforms.

However Yashar Ali at the Huffington Post reports that the BBC’s disclaimer – apparently made in accordance with the new editorial guidelines – does not tell all.

“The BBC has agreed to conditions set by the Islamic Republic of Iran to not share reporting materials it gathers in Iran with its Persian-language channel, BBC Persian, an internal email obtained by HuffPost reveals. The agreement represents a capitulation to a government that has been hostile to press freedom. The Iranian government routinely shuts down media organizations critical of the regime and imprisons, tortures and executes journalists.

The agreement was made with the Iranian government in exchange for Iran allowing a BBC correspondent into the country, and, according to emails that HuffPost obtained, it’s not the first time the British broadcaster has agreed to such terms.

The email, sent Saturday to all BBC Persian staff by a BBC Persian digital editor, said that BBC foreign correspondent Martin Patience and his team were in Iran “and due to leave on Sunday.”

The email goes on to say, “It is absolutely imperative that none of their material is run on BBC Persian TV, Radio or Online now or in the future. That includes any official BBC Persian social feed retweeting or forwarding the coverage. Please do not use the material and stories produced in Iran on any platform or in any format.”

It’s unclear who at the BBC agreed to the exclusivity terms.”

Just last week the UK government co-hosted an international conference in London on media freedom in which the BBC’s Director General and Director of News and Current Affairs took part and the BBC ran a “hub”. The aim of that conference was described by its organisers as follows:

“The conference is part of an international campaign to raise awareness of the importance of international press freedom, and also to increase the consequences faced by those who try to restrict it.” [emphasis added]

One can but wonder how the Foreign & Commonwealth Office – which of course part funds the BBC World Service, which includes BBC Persian – squares last week’s fine declarations on media freedom with the almost simultaneous BBC acquiescence to the demands of the Iranian regime.

BBC News’ Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ myth on view again

In recent days the BBC News website had published two reports pertaining to the resignation (apparently no longer relevant) of Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif.

Mohammad Javad Zarif: Iran’s foreign minister submits resignation” originally appeared on the evening of February 25th.

Iran president ‘has not accepted foreign minister’s resignation’” was published on February 26th and its headline has since been amended.

Both those reports include repeated framing of Zarif as someone who represents a “more moderate” Iran and is different from that country’s “hardliners”.

Article 1:

“He has served as Iran’s ambassador to the UN and became foreign minister in 2013 after President Hassan Rouhani was elected promising a more moderate, outward-looking Iran.”

“Mr Zarif has been under pressure at home from hardliners since the US withdrew from the Iranian nuclear pact, which binds Iran to limit its nuclear activities.”

The article includes analysis from the BBC’s chief international correspondent, Lyse Doucet:

“But he’s under huge pressure from hardliners who never liked or trusted his negotiations with the West.”  

“…is this the exit of the US-educated diplomat who became the smiling face of Iran’s new engagement with the world?”

Article 2:

“His role negotiating the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with world powers exposed him to sharp criticism from hardliners.”

The article includes analysis from BBC Persian’s Kasra Naji:

“The fact is that Iranian hardliners resent him for agreeing to dismantle much of the country’s nuclear programme.”

“Mr Zarif, most observers agree, has put up a robust defence of Iran on the world stage in spite of the fact that many of Iran’s positions, actions and behaviours – with which he has had little to do – have been indefensible.” [emphasis added]

Leaving aside the fact that the JCPOA negotiations could not have been conducted or finalised without the agreement of Iran’s Supreme Leader, is the BBC’s framing of Javad Zarif as someone inherently different to Iran’s “hardliners” actually accurate?

The Tony Blair Institute for Global Change recently published a report by Kasra Aarabi based on analysis of speeches made by Iranian leaders perceived by some in the West as either ‘hardliners’ or ‘moderates’ – including Javad Zarif.

“The 2015 international nuclear deal did not alter Iran’s anti-US stance. The previous US administration’s signing of the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was seen as a stepping stone to better relations between Iran and the world. Yet despite the deal, anti-US sentiment—and anti-Western sentiment in general—continues to abound in the rhetoric of Iran’s leaders. For both Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, both of whom were involved in the negotiations, 60 per cent of their speeches featured explicit anti-US rhetoric.”

“…when the West speaks of moderates in the regime, it often overlooks the fact that all figures in the establishment are committed to Islamism and are vehemently opposed to liberal, secular values. This includes officials the West perceives as moderate, such as Zarif.”

“This research shows that although Rouhani and Zarif were willing to negotiate with the five permanent United Nations (UN) Security Council members plus Germany (P5+1) and the European Union (EU), at home their position towards the West did not shift—certainly not when it came to what they said in public. Antipathy towards the West might have been expected after US President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement in May 2018, but it was not a new feature of Rouhani’s discourse. Even while his government was negotiating the deal, he was repeating the same positions at home.”

“The anti-US rhetoric maintained by figures such as Rafsanjani, Rouhani and Zarif indicates that these individuals were never ideologically moderate, even though their actions—such as the negotiation of the nuclear deal—were perceived as moderate by Western counterparts. When it comes to policymaking, this is a vital lesson to learn. What sets these figures apart from the hard-line ideologues of the regime, such as Ahmadinejad, is that they understand that an unhealthy Iranian economy constrains the state’s ability to function. This, in turn, damages the implementation of Iran’s ideological objectives, both at home and overseas, as laid out in the constitution. […] These figures are more pragmatic ideologues than moderates or reformists.”

As regular readers know, the BBC has nevertheless been promoting the notion of Iranian ‘hardliners’ and ‘moderates’ for many years.

While the BBC is not alone in having bought into the myth of ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ within the Iranian political establishment, one would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information which will enable audiences to “engage fully with issues across…the world” could and would do considerably better.

Related Articles:

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BBC’s summary of Khamenei speech censors pledge to support terror

BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

 

Antisemitic smear in BBC employee’s HMD tweet

On Holocaust Memorial Day – January 27th – the results of a survey showing among other things that 5% of UK adults do not believe that the Holocaust happened were published by the UK’s Holocaust Memorial Day Trust.

In a Tweet relating to that survey BBC employee Masoud Behnoud wrote (as confirmed by a professional translator):

“This [lack of knowledge about the Holocaust] happens in a situation where the financial and political power of Jews has been publicising/promoting it [i.e. knowledge about the Holocaust] for half a century.” [emphasis added]

As we have unfortunately had cause to note here on numerous occasions in the past, the BBC has editorial guidelines on the personal use of social media.

While those guidelines do not include any specific mention of the topic of the promotion of antisemitic themes on microblogs run by BBC employees – apparently because the BBC does not expect to be employing people who engage in that or any other form of racism – they do state that people “identified as a BBC staff member or BBC talent…should not post derogatory or offensive comments on the Internet”.

Despite promoting his own BBC programmes in his timeline, Masoud Behnoud however does not identify himself as a BBC employee in his Twitter profile.

 

 

BBC’s Iran protests backgrounders fail to ameliorate years of omission

As several commentators have noted, the recent protests in Iran have included criticism of the regime’s foreign policy priorities.

At the Spectator Douglas Murray wrote:

“…most early reports indicate that protesters began by highlighting the country’s living standards. Specifically, they complained about the government’s use of its recent economic bonus (from the lifting of sanctions) not to help the Iranian people, but to pursue wider regional ambitions. Iranian forces are currently fighting in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This from a power whose defenders still claim is not expansionist. […]

The nationwide demonstrations, which have not been led by any single demographic, class, or group, have included cries of ‘Leave Gaza, leave Lebanon, my life (only) for Iran’. Chants of ‘Death to Hezbollah’ (Iran’s terrorist proxy currently fighting in Lebanon, Iraq and Syria) have also been heard from Mashhad to Kermanshah.”

At Foreign Policy magazine, Dennis Ross noted that:

“Placards criticizing corruption are rampant, and some demonstrators have even chanted death to the dictator, referring to Khamenei. Protesters have also railed against the costs of Iran’s foreign adventures: One of the earliest chants was, “Not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran.” […]

The protestors are asking why their money is spent in Lebanon, Syria, and Gaza […] On Hezbollah alone, Iran is estimated to provide more than $800 million a year — and their costs in sustaining the Assad regime come to several billion dollars.”

One of the BBC’s early reports – published on December 29th; the day after the protests commenced – also noted those chants.

“There is also anger at Iran’s interventions abroad. In Mashhad, some chanted “not Gaza, not Lebanon, my life for Iran”, a reference to what protesters say is the administration’s focus on foreign rather than domestic issues.

Other demonstrators chanted “leave Syria, think about us” in videos posted online. Iran is a key provider of military support to the government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria.”

However, when the BBC later began producing backgrounders on the protests in Iran, that issue was downplayed.

In a filmed backgrounder published on January 2nd under the title “Iran protests: Why people are taking to the streets”, Rana Rahimpour of BBC Persian told audiences that:

“The protests started out of opposition to President Hassan Rouhani and his economic policies. People were angry with high inflation, unemployment and corruption. But it quickly became bigger than that, and protesters started calling for the downfall of Iran’s most powerful man: Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. They also called for an end to Iran’s involvement in countries like Syria and Lebanon.”

BBC audiences were not however informed what that “involvement” entails or how much it costs the Iranian people.

In a written backgrounder also produced by Rana Rahimpour and published on the BBC News website on the same day under the headline “Iran protests pose an unpredictable challenge for authorities“, readers found the same statement.

“Within a day, the unrest had spread to some 25 towns and cities, and slogans went beyond the economic, including calls, for instance, for an end to Iran’s involvement in Lebanon and Syria.”

An article titled “Iran protests: US brands Tehran’s accusations ‘nonsense’” that also appeared on the BBC News website on January 2nd included analysis by the BBC’s Middle East editor Jeremy Bowen in which readers were told that:

“When the protests started last Thursday, they were about the current economic crisis but as they spread, pent-up frustrations spilled out and politics became a big part of them.

President Rouhani has been widely criticised. He has disappointed voters who hoped he would do more to turn round an economy that has been damaged by years of sanctions, corruption and mismanagement.

Iran’s role in conflicts across the Middle East has also been criticised as it is an expensive foreign policy at a time when people in Iran are getting poorer.”

Another backgrounder – published on the BBC News website on January 4th under the headline “Six charts that explain the Iran protests” made no mention whatsoever of the vast sums of money shoring up the Iranian regime’s protégés and proxies around the Middle East.

Two and a half years ago senior BBC journalists covering the P5+1 deal with Iran assured BBC audiences that the vast sums of money freed up by sanctions relief under the terms of the JCPOA would be used by the Iranian regime to improve the country’s economy.

“President Rouhani was elected because people hoped that he would end Iran’s isolation and thus improve the economy. So the windfall that they will be getting eventually, which is made up of frozen revenues – oil revenues especially –around the world, ah…there are people who argue that look; that will go to try to deal with loads and loads of domestic economic problems and they’ll have trouble at home if they don’t do that. If people – the argument goes on – are celebrating in Iran about the agreement, it’s not because they’ll have more money to make trouble elsewhere in the region; it’s because things might get better at home.”  Jeremy Bowen, PM, BBC Radio 4, July 14th 2015

“In exchange it [Iran] will get a lot. It will get a release of the punishing sanctions. We heard from Hassan Rouhani saying as Iran always says that the sanctions did not succeed but he conceded that they did have an impact on the everyday lives of Iranians. There’s an estimate that some $100 billion will, over time, once Iran carries out its implementation of this agreement, will be released into the Iranian economy.”  Lyse Doucet, Newshour, BBC World Service radio, July 14th 2015.

Since then, the BBC has continued the existing practice of serially avoiding any serious reporting on the issue of Iran’s financing of terror groups and militias across the Middle East.

Given that long-standing policy of omission, it is obvious that BBC audiences are not sufficiently informed on the issue to be able to understand the full significance of those euphemistic references to “Iran’s involvement in countries like Lebanon and Syria”, its “role in conflicts across the Middle East” and its “expensive foreign policy” found in content supposedly meant to explain why Iranians have taken to the streets in protest.

Related Articles:

The figures behind a story the BBC chooses not report

BBC audiences in the dark on Iranian terror financing yet again

BBC silent on renewed Iranian funding for PIJ

BBC euphemisms hobble audience understanding of Iranian terror financing

 

BBC News coverage of Iranian election touts ‘moderate’ Rouhani yet again

Predictably, the BBC News website’s extensive coverage of the May 19th presidential election in Iran included copious portrayal of the winning candidate Hassan Rouhani as a “moderate” and a “reformer”.

Iran presidential election: Five things to know“, Siavash Ardalan, 28/4/17

“…Iranian national politics is basically a power struggle between conservatives and reformists/moderates. […] Don’t forget that it was President Rouhani, a moderate, who was instrumental in helping strike an historic nuclear deal with world powers by convincing the supreme leader – considered closely associated with the conservative establishment – to reluctantly give his blessing.”

“The office of president and the executive branch can be reformist/moderate and has been for the past four years with Mr Rouhani at its helm.”

Iran election: Could women decide the next president?, Rana Rahimpour, 5/5/17

“Early on in the campaign the incumbent, President Hassan Rouhani, posted a photo of himself on social media which caused a flurry of comment.

He was out on a weekend walk in the mountains standing next to two young female hikers, both of whose hijab is far from what would be considered proper by the hardliners.

It was a clear message to young, modern female voters, that he was the candidate who was not overly bothered about the country’s restrictive dress code and other curbs on social freedom.

Mr Rouhani’s campaign video makes a point of praising Iranian women’s achievements in the worlds of both work and sport, and offering his support.

He is also the only candidate so far to have held a rally specifically for female voters.”

Iran election: Hardliner Qalibaf withdraws candidacy“, 15/5/17

“Mr Qalibaf called on his supporters to back conservative cleric Ebrahim Raisi against the incumbent Hassan Rouhani, a moderate who is seeking a second term.”

Iran election: Jahangiri withdraws and endorses Rouhani“, 16/5/17

“A reformist candidate in Iran’s presidential election has pulled out to smooth the path for the moderate incumbent, Hassan Rouhani.”

Iran election: Votes are counted amid high turnout“, 20/5/17

“Mr Rouhani is a moderate cleric who negotiated a landmark nuclear deal with world powers in 2015.”

Iran election: Hassan Rouhani wins second term as president“, 20/5/17

“Mr Rouhani, a moderate who agreed a deal with world powers to limit Iran’s nuclear programme, pledged to “remain true” to his promises.”

“…supporters of President Rouhani who back his promises to steer the country toward moderation came out in big numbers too. […] This was a revenge of the people against the hardliners who intimidated them, jailed them, executed them, drove them to exile, pushed them out of their jobs, and discriminated against women.

President Rouhani will now have a bigger mandate to push through his reforms, to put an end to extremism, to build bridges with the outside world, to put the economy back on track.”

Iran election: Hassan Rouhani gets big mandate but will he deliver?“, Kasra Naji, 20/5/17

“Friday’s vote in Iran was the revenge of the moderates. A rejection of those who had intimidated them, jailed them, executed them, drove them to exile, pushed them out of their jobs.

In his campaign, President Rouhani promised to put an end to extremism, to open up the political atmosphere, to extend individual and political rights, to free political prisoners, to remove discrimination against women and bring under control all those state institutions that are not accountable. […]

He firmly placed himself in the camp of the reformists. Now, with his re-election, Iran is on the path towards change, with a renewed confidence drawn from the emphatic result.”

Iran election: Hassan Rouhani says voters rejected extremism“, 20/5/17

“Moderate Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said his re-election shows voters reject extremism and want more links with the outside world.”

“…supporters of President Rouhani who back his promises to steer the country toward moderation came out in big numbers too. […] This was a revenge of the people against the hardliners who intimidated them, jailed them, executed them, drove them to exile, pushed them out of their jobs, and discriminated against women.

President Rouhani will now have a bigger mandate to push through his reforms, to put an end to extremism, to build bridges with the outside world, to put the economy back on track.”

Iran elections: Pro-Rouhani reformists in Tehran power sweep“, 21/5/17

“Iran’s re-elected moderate President Hassan Rouhani has received a further boost after reformists won key council elections in the capital, Tehran.”

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to that good cop/bad cop portrayal of Iranian politics. Ever since Rouhani was first elected in 2013, the corporation has been portraying him as a “moderate” and a “reformist”, while ignoring the fact that the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ahmed Shaheed, published a report in 2015 that found – among other things – that the number of executions in Iran has risen under Rouhani’s presidency. Last year Amnesty International reported similar findings.

Back in March the WSJ noted that Rouhani’s first term as president “hasn’t been moderate”:

“Witness the latest repression targeting the mullahs’ usual suspects. Tehran’s Prosecutor-General on Sunday announced it had sentenced a couple to death because they had founded a new “cult.” The announcement was short on details, but the charges could mean anything from running a New Age yoga studio to a political-discussion club.

The authorities have also detained Ehsan Mazandarani, a reporter with the reformist newspaper Etemad (“Trust”), according to the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists. […]

Mr. Mazandarani’s detention followed last week’s arrest of dissident reporter Hengameh Shahidi, who also faces “national-security” charges. Ms. Shahidi has been an adviser to Mehdi Karroubi, one of two pro-democracy candidates in 2009’s fraudulent election. Mr. Karroubi and opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi have been under house arrest since 2011. Having hinted at freeing them during his campaign, Mr. Rouhani has kept mum on their cases since coming to office in 2013. […]

Historic Christian communities such as Assyrians and Armenians are afforded second-class protection under Iranian law, while apostasy by Muslims is punishable by death. Despite some early rhetoric about tolerance, Mr. Rouhani has been unwilling or unable to improve conditions for religious minorities.

There is also the status of some half a dozen U.S. and U.K. dual citizens who have been taken hostage by the regime while visiting Iran. These include father and son Baquer and Siamak Namazi, both U.S. citizens, and Nazenin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British citizen who is serving a five-year sentence on secret charges.”

At the Telegraph, Christopher Booker writes of:

“…the ghastly farce of the Iranian presidential election, when again we were told that the victor, Hassan Rouhani, was a “moderate” against a “hardliner”. As I have reported many times, Rouhani is an utterly ruthless operator, who had presided since 2013 over a collapsing economy and what Amnesty International called “a staggering execution spree”, murdering and imprisoning so many dissidents that Iran has per capita the highest execution rate in the world.”

At Bloomberg, Eli Lake notes that:

“During his campaign, he [Rouhani] told voters that he would be a “lawyer” defending their rights. He criticized his main rival, Ebrahim Raisi, for his role in ordering the executions of political dissidents. He promised gender equality and a freer press.

All of that sounds pretty good. And for those in the west looking for an Iranian version of Mikhail Gorbachev, it makes a nice talking point. Unfortunately, there is no reason to believe Rouhani will deliver, or even try to deliver, on any of these promises.

There are a few reasons for this. To start, Rouhani delivered the same line back in 2013 when he first won the presidency. We now know that human rights in Iran have further eroded during his tenure. A lot of this has been documented by the Center for Human Rights in Iran. The organization noted in October that Rouhani supported a law that would essentially place all Iranian media under government control. The center also documented a wave of arrests of journalists in November 2015, following Iran’s agreement to the nuclear bargain with the U.S and five other world powers. In the run-up to Friday’s vote, 29 members of the European Parliament wrote an open letter urging Iran to end its arrests, intimidation and harassment of journalists in the election season.”

And yet, the BBC continues to spoon-feed its audiences with simplistic framing of Rouhani as a benevolent “moderate” and “reformer”. One would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information with the aim of enhancing their “understanding of international issues” could do considerably better.

Related Articles:

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

BBC does Iranian ‘moderates and reformists’ framing yet again

The BBC News website published numerous reports concerning the death of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani on January 8th and a common feature in all that content was the promotion of the notion that Rafsanjani was a ‘moderate’ and a ‘reformer’.

Iran’s ex-President Rafsanjani dies at 82:

“In recent years, our correspondent says, he has been a central figure in the reform movement that has been trying to have a moderating influence on Iran and Ayatollah Khamenei.”

Obituary: Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani

“Seen as “pragmatic conservative”, Rafsanjani was a leading member of the Iran’s religious establishment who gained popularity in later life among the country’s moderates. […]

He went on to be openly critical of Mr Ahmadinejad and became a key supporter of his reform-minded successor, Hassan Rouhani.”

Ex-President Rafsanjani a ‘most influential figure’ in Iran:

“…in recent years he has been instrumental in pushing a line of moderation in Iran, influencing…a moderating influence in Iran. And in recent years again he became gradually a top figure in the Iranian reform movement. So his death is going to leave a big hole in the reform movement and that moderating influence that they were trying to push.”

Iran former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani dies aged 82

“…but his political allegiances later shifted towards reformists…”

Iran loses force for continuity with Rafsanjani’s death:rafsanjani 

“At the same time his death has left a big hole in the confidence of the moderates and the reformist movement in Iran. […]

Although he began politically as an Islamic hardliner, Rafsanjani had increasingly moved to the centre of Iranian politics in the last two decades, and in recent years, he became a champion of the reformists and a strong moderating influence, gaining huge popularity.”

Iran Rafsanjani death: Huge crowds at ex-president’s funeral:

“But over the decades, the wily politician who held almost every major position in government became known for his pragmatic approach to Iran’s theocracy.

He pushed for a greater rapprochement with the West and more social and economic freedoms.

His credentials gave him the courage and the clout to speak out. The reformists he backed, including the current President Hassan Rouhani, have now lost a key ally in their incessant struggle for power against the hardliners.”

Iran Rafsanjani funeral underscores political divisions:

“Some were chanting opposition slogans, and others carried placards emphasising Mr Rafsanjani’s links to the moderate and reformist camps. […]

“The circle became too closed for the centre,” said another, using a quotation from Persian poetry to underline the growing distance in recent years between Mr Rafsanjani and Iran’s hardline political establishment.”

BBC audiences are of course no strangers to similar framing of the current Iranian president as a ‘moderate’ and a ‘reformer’ even though Rouhani’s record does nothing to support the employment of such portrayals. As the Jerusalem Post’s Seth Frantzman noted:

“Then former Iranian president Akbar Hashem Rafsanjani died on Sunday at age 82. Western media once again sold us a story of how this was a “big blow to moderates and reformists,” as CNBC reported. Rafsanjani was the “most influential supporter” of reforms among the Islamic establishment. Now the non-existent “reformers” have another excuse why there are no reforms. […]

Reading news about Iran it almost seems every western news agency and major media outlet receives talking points from some unseen super-news media word database. “When writing about Iran there are two political parties, the reformers or moderates and the hard-liners, use these key words when describing everything. […]

The reality in Iran is that the choice is not between reformers and hard-liners, but the extreme religious right and the extreme nationalist religious right. There are no liberal leaders in Iran.  There are only militarists, theocrats, nationalists, extremists, the extreme right, the populist right, the fundamentalists, the fundamentalist right, the Inquisition leaders, and floggers and executioners. […]

Every time journalists parrot this “moderates” story they feed a false regime-supported narrative.”

At the Wall Street Journal Sohrab Ahmari writes:

“Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani was the original Mr. Moderation. Western observers saw the former Iranian president as a sort of Deng Xiaoping in clerical robes: a founder of the Islamic Republic who was destined to transform the country into a normal state. Rafsanjani, they thought, was too corrupt to be an ideologue.

Yet Rafsanjani, who died Sunday at 82, consistently defied such hopes. His life and legacy remind us that fanaticism and venality aren’t mutually exclusive. It’s a lesson in the persistence of Western fantasies about the Iranian regime. […]

Khomeini’s death in 1989 occasioned Rafsanjani’s worst political misstep. Thinking he could puppeteer events behind the scenes, Rafsanjani successfully promoted his archrival, Ali Khamenei, as the next supreme leader. But Mr. Khamenei, far more assertive than Rafsanjani had imagined, soon consolidated power.

The regime’s Western apologists framed that rivalry as a genuine ideological conflict between the “hard-line” Mr. Khamenei and the “pragmatic,” “moderate” Rafsanjani (along with others, such as current President Hassan Rouhani). President Obama’s nuclear deal was premised on the same fantasy: Rafsanjani had accumulated vast, ill-gotten wealth—here’s someone with whom we can do business.

Yet Rafsanjani never failed to follow the “Line of the Imam,” not least in foreign affairs. […]

Still the illusions die hard. Minutes after Rafsanjani’s death was announced, the New York Times’s Tehran correspondent tweeted that it “is a major blow to moderates and reformists in Iran.””

While the BBC is clearly not alone in having bought into the notion of ‘moderates’ and ‘reformists’ within the Iranian political establishment, one would of course expect that a media organisation obliged to provide its funding public with accurate and impartial information which will build their “understanding of international issues” could do considerably better.

Related Articles:

Why does the BBC continue to describe Rouhani as a ‘moderate’?

BBC framing of Iran’s president once again shown to be redundant

 

 

 

Correction secured to BBC Persian article about Elie Wiesel

At the beginning of July we noted here that a BBC Persian article concerning the death of Elie Wiesel included an inaccurate claim.BBC Persian Wiesel art

“The final paragraph of that article tells readers that in 2014, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Elie Wiesel accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. A translation of that paragraph (confirmed by a professional Farsi translator) reads as follows:

“Two years ago, Elie Wiesel, together with 300 Holocaust survivors, criticised Israel because of its attack on Gaza, and accused the Israeli government of genocide.”

Elie Wiesel made no such accusation and did not put his name to that statement advertised by IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) in the New York Times. In fact, the IJAN statement included direct criticism of Wiesel and was made in response to an earlier advertisement criticising Hamas’ use of human shields which was put out by Wiesel himself.”

We also noted that:

“The BBC should be familiar with the facts behind that story: after all, it took it upon itself to amplify that IJAN statement extensively at the time.”

Following communication from BBC Watch, that paragraph has been amended and a footnote has been added to the article which reads:

“Clarification: In the first version of this article it was written by mistake that Elie Wiesel was a signatory to a letter that accused the government of Israel with genocide. Hereby the mistake is corrected.” 

 

BBC Persian promotes falsehood in report on Elie Wiesel’s death

h/t Dr CL

A member of the public recently alerted us to an inaccuracy in an article concerning the death of Elie Wiesel which appeared on the BBC Persian website on July 2nd.BBC Persian Wiesel art

The final paragraph of that article tells readers that in 2014, during the conflict between Israel and Hamas, Elie Wiesel accused Israel of committing genocide in the Gaza Strip. A translation of that paragraph (confirmed by a professional Farsi translator) reads as follows:

“Two years ago, Elie Wiesel, together with 300 Holocaust survivors, criticised Israel because of its attack on Gaza, and accused the Israeli government of genocide.”

Elie Wiesel made no such accusation and did not put his name to that statement advertised by IJAN (International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network) in the New York Times. In fact, the IJAN statement included direct criticism of Wiesel and was made in response to an earlier advertisement criticising Hamas’ use of human shields which was put out by Wiesel himself.

The BBC should be familiar with the facts behind that story: after all, it took it upon itself to amplify that IJAN statement extensively at the time. Clearly the falsehood promoted by BBC Persian requires immediate retraction and prominent correction.

Related Articles:

BBC News website promotes the anti-Israel defamation of a fringe racist group

Resources:

BBC Persian e-mail: Persian@bbc.co.uk

BBC Persian complaints

BBC Persian on Twitter  

When BBC journalists become the story – and when they don’t

On January 20th followers of the BBC News Twitter account were alerted to a story described as follows:

Tweet journalist fly US

However, only those who followed the link and bothered to read the article – titled “BBC journalist Rana Rahimpour stopped from flying to US” – in full would appreciate that in fact the well promoted story (which is also told in an additional article by BBC Trending called “Why I tweeted a picture of myself in tears“) has nothing at all to do with the BBC or journalism and that it is actually about the visa related tribulations of a woman making a private journey who just happens to work for the corporation.Rahimpour story

In an additional filmed interview on BBC News Rahimpour gave a positive answer to this loaded question from the presenter:

“Does this feel right now that you are being discriminated against because of your heritage?”

The question of whether or not journalists should become the story is of course largely a matter of taste but in this case it seems pretty clear that Ms Rahimpour’s BBC connections prompted wide coverage of an event which might otherwise have received much less exposure.

Interestingly, a previous story about another BBC employee did not receive any coverage from the corporation. BBC News producer Erica Chernofsky wrote about her experiences whilst driving in Judea & Samaria last October at the Times of Israel.Rahimpour story Trending

“And then suddenly there was a loud boom. And another, and another, and then another. And I couldn’t see a thing, and I heard my children screaming, the baby crying, I looked out my window and saw the Palestinian children, and then an Israeli soldier. I fumbled for my cell phone, following the protocol I had been taught but never had to use.

I called for help. I heard my voice shaking as I tried to explain where we were, what had happened, and as I did my car’s windscreen finally came into focus, it was smashed, my legs and arms were covered in glass, my knee was burning where a shard of glass was stuck inside my skin. And then I dropped the phone, suddenly remembering my children, ohmigod my children, the baby! I climbed out of my seat to look behind me as my husband continued driving away as fast as he could.

They were screaming, my 3-year-old was crying hysterically, my 6-year-old was yelling “what happened mommy, what happened!” over and over again. And the baby, was crying, screaming, oh, he’s such a good baby and he never cries, and then I saw he was covered in millions of tiny pieces of glass. The entire back windshield of the car had smashed in, there was glass everywhere, all over my children, all over my baby. In his hair, on his face, on his little onesie. I gently tried to shake the glass off him as my hands trembled, “drive faster, quickly, quickly, we have to check the baby,” I cried to my husband, who had somehow not lost control of the car during the attack. […]

It’s in the news all the time. Rock throwing. It seems trivial. But it wasn’t rocks. It wasn’t pebbles. It was giant blocks of stone, the rectangular kind that are used to build houses. And it can kill. Rocks, stones, guns, are all the same. They are weapons. They are violence. They are tools to commit murder.”

So, whilst a BBC employee with nationality-related visa problems makes the news, a BBC employee targeted in a terror attack for no other reason than her nationality did not.

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When stone-throwing at vehicles does interest the BBC