Thursday, March 30, 2006

IRNA Distorts Interview

Steven Ekovich, Iran va Jahan:
I was cited in a report published in English on March 5 by IRNA, the official Iranian government news agency. I was appalled by the distortions of my views which were originally given in an interview in French to a young IRNA reporter in Paris. The article in English entitled “Western Scientists Brush Aside US Policies towards Iran” renders with disquieting inaccuracy what I said in my interview. READ MORE

First of all, I never said that "It should be borne in mind that the world of today is a political world and Iran's nuclear case should be dealt with politically." I would never say anything as banal as "the world of today is a political world" and the conclusion drawn from that "that Iran's nuclear case is being dealt with politically." I also did not say that Iran's nuclear case should be resolved through diplomatic means. I said that this was certainly the preferred method, but that other means have not been ruled out.

In my interview I said that Iran had greatly suffered from its war with Iraq (1980-1988) and that Iranians were sick and tired of war. This is not the same as saying, as the article falsely quotes me, that the "The Iranian nation has been treated with unkindness." I made no judgments about unkindness or kindness. I am quoted as saying "The Iranians are not after war." I said the Iranian people did not want war. I know nothing about the real intentions of the Iranian leadership, a view widely shared by most of the rest of the world. In my interview, in fact, I said that most of the world did not trust the leadership or believe its word.

The article also erroneous attributed my professional affiliation. I am not "Research Director at the Paris-based Center for the Study of French (I do not even know if such a center even exists). I am a professor of politics and history at The American University of Paris. The misattribution of my affiliation is a gross example of journalistic sloppiness, indicative of the other instances in the article that cite me inaccurately.

I accepted to give the interview to the young Iranian journalist, Saeed Taheri, because he was earnest and promised he would send me his article in Farsi before passing it along to his editors. This he did. I have Iranian colleagues whose native language is Farsi and one of them translated Taheri's article for me. Although there did not seem to be gross distortions in the Farsi version, there were more of Mr. Taheri's words and ideas in his story than mine. His article gave me the impression that he had used his interview with me to present his own views, which are identical with those of the leadership in Teheran. In any case, he selected what he wanted from our interview. I had understood it was to be a real interview with questions and all of my answers.

I wrote back to Mr. Taheri and pointed out, for example, that he had completely ignored what I said about the current regime sponsoring terrorism. I even used the term "state terrorism" in reference to Iran's domestic as well as its foreign policy. Also in his article Mr. Taheri claimed that I had no answer to his question about what the current regime could do to re-establish international legitimacy. On the contrary, I had answered that the regime could be more open and transparent and stop sponsoring terrorism. I also said this transparence should include all weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons and not just nuclear.

After sending me his article in Farsi Mr. Taheri did admit to me that he could not completely control what his editors in Iran would do with his article (once again, not really an interview). The English version demonstrates that his editors are incompetent or malicious, maybe both. When I first saw the IRNA article in English on the net I sent an e-mail message to the agency saying: "In an English version of an interview I gave you have completely distorted what I said. You have also made a serious mistake on my institutional affiliation. This is not serious and professional journalism." Two weeks later I have still not received a response. Making an interview in French, then cutting it down in Farsi to a debate with the journalist that suits his point of view, then publishing a gross distortion in English raise questions about Iranian journalism today, in particular when it comes from official news agencies.

This is one more example why the regime cannot be trusted. Do they understand this?