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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

More on Iranian Democracy 

Two additional views on Iran and democracy. See my earlier post for other views.

Hawken Blog makes the following comment while linking to stories about Iran arresting strikers:

The US government and corporate media's newfound desire to invade Iran...would only serve to further repress genuine grassroots movements for democracy in Iran. Democracy in Iran can only come from below, from the people.

Meanwhile, Reality Hammer says the following:

While whining that waging war on terrorism is anti-Democratic the New York Times has also made sure to promote radical theocracies as "democracies"....

Case in point is the counter-factual op-ed by Hossein Derakhshan ironically titled "Democracy's Double Standard". In this opinion article the false premise that Iran is a democracy is put forth, and then President Bush is criticized for not supporting this "democracy". As with all arguments that use false premises the conclusion is invalid.

Iran is not a democracy, it is a theocracy. The country is controlled by a cabal of clerics who pick and choose who can "run" for office. Dissension is not merely outlawed, it is labeled as heresy. Dissenters are labeled as heretics and (if they are lucky) thrown in jail. Does that sound like a democracy to you? Of course not!...

You have to hand it to the Times in one area, though. It knows its audience, and they love to hate President Bush. So a real democracy in Iraq gets downplayed and criticized while a harsh theocracy in Iran gets kid-glove treatment because they are at odds with President Bush. It is both logical and reasonable for people who love democracy to boycott the false elections in Iran as a protest against the theocracy that rules that nation with an iron fist. Yet the Times feels the need to criticize President Bush for doing so, claiming that "any" election is a step towards democracy.

Here's my challenge to the New York Times: go to Tehran and set up a news outlet there where you promote democracy. Let's see how long it takes you to end up in prison (or worse). Go ahead, I'll wait.... Prove me wrong by staying in Tehran and becoming the center of a pro-democracy movement.

I know you won't, however. Because you know that Iran is not a democracy and you would end up dead or in prison. Yet your desire to oppose President Bush drives you to make excuses for a repressive regime. What a sad way to run a newspaper.

Reporters Without Borders has published several items decrying limitations on press freedom in Iran. Here's one on Saba TV:

27 December 2005

National Security Council bans satellite channel Saba TV

Reporters Without Borders today deplored the banning of satellite TV station Saba TV by Iran’s Supreme National Security Council as one more example of the battle by the country’s media for freedom of expression.

The Council has declared the Dubai-based station “illegal” after trying to stop its launch, announced last summer as imminent. The national constitution forbids any independent radio or TV station. Saba TV decided to delay its launch as a result of the ban....

The station was set up by Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karoubi, a pro-reform religious figure and ex-speaker of parliament, as the first satellite TV station founded by a former Iranian politician and aiming to provide “objective and unbiased news” about Iran to Farsi-speaking people everywhere.

The station said on 26 December it would file a complaint against the Council’s secretary-general, Ali Larijani, for banning the station. The Council forbade the Iranian media to give news or publish ads about the station’s impending launch. The authorities, backed by the regime’s hardliners, have attacked Karoubi for being “anti-nationalist” and “favouring Westerners.”

Al Jazeera has also run into trouble, in Iran and in some democracies also:

27 January 2005

Reporters Without Borders condemns harassment of Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera
Summary of attacks on the channel in 2004

Reporters Without Borders has protested at persistent harassment of Arabic-language satellite TV al-Jazeera as the channel said on 26 January Saudi Arabia had refused to allow it to cover the Mecca pilgrimage for a third consecutive year.

Since the start of 2004, al-Jazeera has been harshly criticised by Saudi Arabia and the United States, has been censored in Algeria, Iran, Tunisia and Canada and, from 7 August 2004, had its Baghdad bureau shut down by the Iraqi interim government....

Iran has threatened sanctions against the al-Jazeera bureau there on several occasions. In November 2004, Tehran told the channel to remove a cartoon it considered offensive from its website or face the consequences. The foreign media director at the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation, Mohammad Hossein Khoshvaght, said, "Unless this animation disappears and if such abuses continue, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Orientation will be forced to take the necessary steps to considered restricting the channel’s work in Iran". The channel was threatened with expulsion a second time soon afterwards for referring to the "Arabic Gulf" and not the "Persian Gulf"....

In April 2004, the United States...accused the channel of stoking up anti-American feelings in its coverage of events in Iraq. Contacted by Reporters Without Borders, Jihad Ballout, spokesman for al-Jazeera, said that the channel’s editorial line would not be influenced by the attacks. "We are simple observers, and not actors. We do not apply any political judgement and we try to present a balanced coverage of the conflict. We give equal airtime to the Iraqi people as to the insurgents and the US forces," he added.

Al-Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Haj, a Sudanese national, has been held by US forces since the start of 2002 at Guantanamo military base in Cuba. His wife has had no news of him for 18 months and the reasons for his detention remain unknown.

In Canada, several conditions have been slapped on al-Jazeera’s distribution. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) ruled that the distributors had to monitor its programmes 24 hours a day. Moreover, the CRTC authorised the operators "to modify or cancel al-Jazeera programmes (...) to avoid distribution of offensive remarks."

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Iran and North Korea pose the biggest threats to this country, militarily speaking. Too bad all our soldiers are already engaged elsewhere.
Though I can't see much of a chance of Bush getting Congressional agreement for military action against Iran, even if the EU and Russia end up supporting the move.
Not now, when all of our resources have been overextended in other places *cough*.
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