OpinionIran in the World PressCourage, websites and sound judgment fight Iran’s media suppression

Courage, websites and sound judgment fight Iran’s media suppression

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ImageThe Times: The Iranian regime is fighting not only to suppress opposition protests but to suppress news of those protests lest the contagion spread. The Times

Behind the story: Martin Fletcher

ImageThe Iranian regime is fighting not only to suppress opposition protests but to suppress news of those protests lest the contagion spread.

To that end it has shut reformist newspapers and websites and cut internet services on days of particular tension. It has censored the state-controlled press, television and news agencies to the extent that protests and major events such as the death of Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri go almost unreported.

It has ejected almost all foreign correspondents and imposed restrictions on the few who remain because it knows that the opposition circulates reports in the international media through e-mails.

That all presents a challenge to Western news outlets seeking to report accurately and speedily on events in the Islamic Republic.

The Times bases its reports on multiple sources. These include some Iranians in Tehran who risk their liberty by sending reports, Iranians in the West who pass on information from sources in their homeland, reformist websites that have managed to avoid closure and proved themselves reliable, and Western wire services who have Iranian employees.

On the days of demonstrations the opposition invariably finds ways of circumventing internet restrictions and floods Western newsrooms with reports and grainy footage filmed on mobile telephones.

Mir Hossein Mousavi, the de facto opposition leader, has mocked the regime for trying to stop a river of information with barbed wire.

Even the state-controlled Iranian media have their uses — though sometimes the interest lies more in what it is not reporting.

Events outside Tehran, such as Monday’s demonstration in Qom or yesterday’s clashes in Isfahan, pose an even greater problem. The Times uses its best judgment when sifting through the various sources and uses only what it is confident is correct. In the circumstances, absolute corroboration of every fact is impossible, however, and to insist on it would hand victory to the regime.

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