Monday, December 13, 2010

BBC Persian and Shirin Ebadi's Problem with the Media Focus on Sakineh

When Shirin Ebadi won the Nobel Peace Prize, I was utterly disappointed with her for losing the best opportunity until then to highlight the Human Rights abuses in Iran. There she was with the whole world's attention focused on her winning the prize and yet she chose to highlight the problems of Palestinians and remain silent on the  plight of her own people.

Many years ago, I attended a meeting by Shirin Ebadi for an Iranian audience at Imperial College, London . There she spoke beautifully about the fundamental wrongs of Iran's legal system, why elections in Iran are fraudulent from the start and the plight of Iran's prisoners of conscience. We were told to hand in our questions in writing during the break. My question was 'why does she not say these things when she faces an international audience?' and she chose not to answer that question.

With the start of the Green Movement, Shirin Ebadi however stood resolutely by the people of Iran. The regime's brutality in suppressing all dissent and all peaceful protesters in such a barbaric way, united the people of Iran in an unprecedented way in the last thirty years. Old differences and criticisms of each other was forgotten, and defeating the coup administration became the common goal that united all of us despite our previous tactical differences.

And so I too became supportive of Shirin Ebadi and backed her efforts to highlight the human rights abuses in Iran and her attempts to solicit international help for the pro-democracy movement.

When the latest despicable Press TV documentary about Sakineh went on air last Friday, BBC Persian showed a footage almost reporting exactly what was shown on Press TV. It did not challenge the program and it did not seek other sources to comment on the program. It was as if the Press TV documentary was repeated on BBC Persian again. On Saturday BBC Persian showed the following:

which suggested the Sakineh story is an IR state deviation which is keeping the news about Iran's political prisoners out of the media limelight. To buttress this, BBC Persian also interviewed Shirin Ebadi who backed this silly argument.

This argument can only be presented by those who are not media savvy and are not aware how to use the Western media. Sakineh story if anything has highlighted Iran's biased and unjust judiciary and its archaic laws. It has grabbed the international attention, even the normally non-political audiences, simply because in this day and age the overwhelming people in the world, including majority of Muslims, can not accept a barbaric punishment like stoning. Even the regime's own allies like Brazil are now feeling uncomfortable about being allies to a regime which stones women to death. Sakineh story has created an umbrella under which, this is the best time to highlight all other human rights abuses in Iran including those of Iran's political prisoners, only if we know how to. Because of the Sakineh story, someone like Ahamdinejad is shown to be an audacious liar who in an ABC interview unashamedly states Sakineh was never sentenced to death by stoning and this is then followed by contradiction after contradiction by IR officials.

Human Rights activists like Shirin Ebadi rather than lamenting that Sakineh is taking away all the media publicity, should use this as a golden opportunity to tell the world what is going on in Iran. Yet I myself have been a witness as to how on several occasions the media has wanted to write about other Iranian political dissidents and get some quotes or information from Shirin Ebadi related to the story, but she is either unavailable or her agent replies a week later when the news worthiness of the story in the Western press is well past its sell by date.

Lastly who is BBC Persian trying to kid? Its not as if before Sakineh, BBC Persian was successful in making Iranian dissidents become known in the West. The BBC Persian presenter of the program above,  Panah Farhad Bahman, despite his derisive smirk while presenting this warped argument must be well aware of his colleagues' shortcomings in covering vital Iran related news. Just to name one example was when Iranians in UK decided to protest outside Press TV on Neda's birthday after Press TV yet again showed a despicable documentary about Neda and how she was murdered. While many other media outlet representatives were there to cover the protest and understood its news worthiness, BBC Persian reporter didn't  even show up, claiming he got lost on his way!

This unbaked argument that Sakineh is taking away the Western media attention from other human rights abuses in Iran and is a deliberate tactic by the Islamic Republic, makes it sound as if BBC Persian was successful in highlighting other prisoners of conscience in Iran to the outside world prior to Sakineh. Far from it! My advice to Shirin Ebadi and her agent is to become more media savvy and to BBC Persian is stop trying to please the Iranian regime in return for a bureau in Tehran.


Juniper in the Desert said...

Is Shirin Abadi a lefty? That would explain the nobel peace prize, which since having been given to Osama/obama BEFORE he achieved anything, has lost all credibility!

Anonymous said...

It's not just BBC Persian that is guilty of not taking an opportunity to expose the regimes ills.

John Pilger was on Radio5Live this morning, talking about how the Wikileaks "prove" that Iran is a peaceful international player with no ill intent in it's region!! Perhaps Pilger, the self proclaimed international affairs "expert", should open his eyes to the situation IN Iran.