A word with foreign reporters at the NAM Conference in Tehran
Your Banquet has further Emptied the Tables of Iranians
I am sorry that I and many of my Iranian colleagues have been forced to leave the country because of the oppression that rules my country, while others from amongst us are serving their sentences in the prisons of the Supreme Leader. I therefore trust you understand and forgive us for not being able to welcome you in person, and trust that you are enjoying the tradition of Persian hospitality.
I cannot, however, ignore the fact that the premise of your presence in Iran carries a fair share of bitter irony for many of my fellow Iranians. Your presence is only part of an extravagant show set up by the corrupt Iranian government to influence a portion of domestic public opinion. I thought it necessary to share some points with you dealing with the news, newsmakers, and the media in Iran and outside of Iran for over fifteen years.
You remember how the Iranian government treated both domestic and international journalists three years ago, and I am sure that there are those amongst you who witnessed first-hand how reporters and journalists were unconventionally limited in reflecting the realities of the Iranian society following the fraudulent elections of 2009. Those of you who did not have the opportunity to be in Iran during those street protests came to understand the realities of the recent years in Iran through the videos and reports that the Iranian youth put themselves in danger to produce. You have also probably heard from the limited number of your colleagues who were admitted to Iran to cover the Parliamentary elections how they were not allowed to travel freely in Tehran.
If a large number of foreign reporters are now given the chance to cover the Non Aligned Movement conference in Iran, it is because the Iranian government needs to project a caricature image of the capital of the Islamic Republic. The oppressive government of the Islamic Republic is well aware of the fact that the summit of the Non Aligned Movement has no positive outcome for the country; however, there are still Iranians whose sole source of information is the state media, where the wealth of the nation is spent to deceive them. This is the reality of the media in my country; do not forget it during these times, as your actions have the potential to either harm or help. The main news agency of the government that sponsors your visit published a fake interview with Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi in which he supported the policies of the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic! During this conference, you will be competing with media that publishes FAKE pictures from other visits when Ahmadinejad visits Saudi Arabia to prove that the Iranian president has influence abroad. You have a sensitive job in representing the truth. In addition to neutralizing the false propaganda of the Islamic Republic, you are also expected to reflect the criticisms voiced by the participants that will most definitely not reach the Iranian media for Iranians and for the world to know the low esteem of Iranian officials in today’s world.
Another thing you can do while in Tehran is to ask questions from Iranian officials you will have access to during the summit. When Ahmadinejad travels outside of Iran, the questions asked of him are usually a specific group of questions with focus on Israel. I am not against your questions in this regard, for I understand how you are surprised by the unwise and provocative statements by Iranian officials with regards to Israel. Some of you also may have reason to give special attention to this topic and feel a responsibility to ask questions in this regard, while others of you may be under your own pressure from your governments to do so. However, most Iranians expect you to use every chance to ask Iranian officials to explain the mistreatment of their fellow Iranians. I am not asking you to ask the liar officials of the Islamic Republic about each prisoner, but you can ask them about the inhumane action of denying all prison visits during the NAM conference. ( The weekly visits of prisoners with their families are suspended)
All of the capital has been shut down for five days during the conference; you can search the internet if you like and read how the government has ordered banks, offices, stock markets, and private businesses to remain closed during the event. In Iran’s state-run economy, for Tehran to shut down means that the national economy comes to a halt, causing billions of dollars of loss in an already faltering economy.Based upon the statements of the Chief of Justice, Tehran’s prosecutor general, the Head of the Parliament National Security Committee, the Foreign Minister and the President, opposition leaders Mirhossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karroubi are free men and not under arrest; you may ask to meet with them.
Did you know that in order to “make-up” the city while you and NAM leaders attend the summit in Tehran, the ever-increasing homeless people who work on he streets have been rounded up. Most of the flights to and from the capital have been canceled, which in itself has a negative impact on the failing economy. You can mention these issues to Iranian officials and ask them “what was the outcome of the NAM summit for the Iranian people who are carrying the financial and moral burden, from business owners to the innocent families of prisoner?
During this period, you can pressure Iranian officials to have a press conference with the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic. Followers of Mr. Khamenei consider him a complete leader, fully capable of leading the world; the statements of the Supreme Leader himself show that he also believes in this fantasy. In his speech, he will be talking about the pressure upon people in other countries, and how the officials in other countries are not receptive. In the beginning of Khamenei’s 280th month as Supreme Leader, you can ask Iranian officials to sit him for first time in front of reporters who are there to cover a summit that imposes billions of dollars on Iranians.
The only way to make these high prices acceptable for the Iranian people is your effort to question the unresponsive officials of the Islamic Republic. I am sorry to say that the conference you are in Tehran to cover has drained the income of Iranians by billions of dollars; hence, Iranians have the right to expect you to truthfully reflect the caricature of Tehran and the economic pressure on Iranians. They expect you to force Iranian officials to respond to questions on hundreds of domestic and international issues that they have not responded to in the past. If you do so, the Iranian people will welcome your presence as the dearest of guests.
Seyed Mojtaba Vahedi
Media Advisor to the Speaker of the Sixth Parliament
Former Editor in Chief of the Aftabe-Yazd newspaper