Sunday, June 18, 2006

Which Media Priorities?

Hossein Bastani, Rooz Online:
The intensity of the violence used by the police and the security forces on last Monday’s peaceful rally organized by women activists was unprecedented in three ways. First, the force that was used to crackdown and break-up the rally was more excessive than any other incident In Tehran in the last 10 years, save for a handful student protests. Second, the demonstrators were extremely peaceful and even conservative in their calls and behavior, nowhere near what the student protests of 1999 or 2004, which had prompted harsh official confrontation. Third, a relatively unprecedented number of prominent personalities, who are known to be activist members of civil society, were arrested in connection with the peaceful gathering.

The rally was an important news event for Iran no matter how one looked at it. But the internationally there hasn’t been a proportionate response to it, whether by officials or by the media. In fact in Iran it has received less coverage and importance than president Ahmadinejad’s decision last month allowing women to participate in public sporting events at stadiums, which as we know was later rescinded because of political pressure from the leadership of the regime and in reality did not change anything. But last Monday women’s rally and its suppression, unlike the propaganda issue relating to the presidential decree on women’s stadium presence, indicated the absolute determination on behalf of the regime to suppress the calls for even the minimum rights by women who had already crossed the acceptable activist limits despite the wishes of the hardliners. One should note that Monday’s police brutality and excessive force comes at a time when the Iranian government needs the goodwill of the world community more than any other time, i.e. on the eve of the first meeting of UN’s newly formed Human Rights Council which has Iran’s human rights situation on its immediate agenda. The facts demonstrate the regime’s strategic decision to bring the women’s struggle to “its size” by any means and cost. READ MORE

It is instructive that a day after the arrest of the demonstrators and activists, the judiciary of the Islamic regime invites and takes foreign press representatives to the notorious Evin prison to “prove” that its treatment of this section of society has been improving. Officials did not mention the prominent women activists that they had arrested in connection with Monday’s incident, while at the time of the visit they must have been under the most intense pressures to sign forced and fake confessions against themselves. But even these contradictions are not proportionately reflected in the media.

The bitter reality is that the current international media perspective on Iran is such that even if all student and women activists in Iran were arrested, the event would receive less coverage than a single sentence by the president of Iran about women allowed or barred from attending stadiums, and even less than what he may say about the Holocaust.

How sad that if young Iranian web-bloggers had not published photographs and stories about Monday’s women’s rally in the front pages of their web sites, even the names of the arrested activists would not be known to the public.