Saturday, August 13, 2005

The Interconnectedness of the Nuclear Issue and Human Rights in Islamic Republic

As I am writing this, the Iranian dissident, Akbar Ganji,
has now been on hunger strike for 65 days. No one including
his immediate family have been allowed to see him for more
than two weeks. For all we know he may already be dead.

Ganji has had the support of many well known international
figures. These include US President George Bush, former
Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky, former Czech Republic
president Vaclav Havel, six past Nobel peace laureates,
thousands of academics both Iranian and non-Iranian,
including Noam Chomsky.
The support is impressive to say the least and across
the spectrum. Even the longtime friend of Islamic clerics
in Iran and probably their "illegal oil trade"
partner, UN General Secretary, Kofi Anan, finally had to
admit that he was aware of Akbar Ganji's case. Yet there
is one major exception to all this support.
The mainstream media, including the BBC, have remained
silent. Here I have been racking my brain and asking the
question, why?

First I considered the usual reasons normally given in
such circumstances. Lack of film footage, photos, people
to talk to, all the usual bollocks.
But surely not in Ganji's case. Here we have available
photos and film footage.
Ganji's loyal wife has braved all adversity and volunteered
to talk to foreign media.
Indeed Channel4 in UK made an informative 15 minute report
on Ganji.
So the first theory, I had to rule out.

Then I thought may be the editors don't think the public are
interested in Iran.
They look at news from Iran as a commodity that they can not
sell to their public.
Perhaps we Iranian expats should bear more pressure on these
editors that hey, we are part of your audience too. We in the
UK also pay TV licence fees which pay your wages. We want to
hear the news of our old country, just like when you reported
it in 1979. Perhaps we Iranian expats should motivate the public
in the West to bear pressure on these mainstream media editors
that they have it wrong. The public in the West are not just
interested in hearing about the mistreatments of Islamic extremists
in Guantanamo, they are in fact also interested in hearing the
secular struggle for justice and democracy against a religious
dictatorship too.
After all surely the Western public now realise that Islamic
fundamentalism is not just a "cultural" problem specific to us Iranians.
Surely after the London bombings the public in the West realize that
Islamic fundamentalism is a global threat.

As I was pondering these thoughts, I got an email from a journalist
friend of mine in Iran. I had posed the same question to him and this
was his reply.
"The news editors think the nuclear issue is the one which has the
high profile. They are shit scared of their correspondents getting
kicked out of Iran if they show their reports on human rights abuses.
Instead the editors prefer not to risk the deportation of their
correspondents so they can remain in Iran and cover the bigger issue."

I have faith in my friend's judgement after all he knows these
correspondents. The problem I have with this line of thought is however
that the two issues are actually interconnected.

A government which ignores the international cry for freedom of a
journalist on hunger strike, who is only imprisoned for expressing his
opinion, can not be trusted with international treaties.

A government that jails lawyers for defending their dissident clients
has no understanding of a fair legal process.

A government that uses helicopter gunships to kill its own people can
not be trusted as having peaceful intentions with nuclear technology.

A government that openly backs and sponsors international terrorism is
not an ideal candidate to obtain nuclear technology. To miss all this
when reporting the nuclear issues is bad reporting to say the least.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There is also a good article by Max Boot about this: