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June 28, 2009

Media Coverage of the Iranian Elections

Yvonne Ridley

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DEMOCRACY is a wonderful thing ... as long as the results put the right people in power.

Yvonne RidleyDEMOCRACY is a wonderful thing ... as long as the results put the right people in power.

And so when Iranian leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was swept back into power a great many people across the world began to question the result.

He's certainly popular with millions of voters across Iran but despised by the corporate Western media. Despite my efforts, I could not find one single mainstream newspaper which covered the Iranian elections in an objective way.

Exactly the same thing happened when the Palestinians swept Hamas to power - in its arrogance the Western media decided if it wasn't 'best for the west' then it can’t be good for anyone else.

The journalists are often mere accomplices or tools for darker forces. And so if a democratic election produces the ‘wrong’ result the CIA, among other mischief makers, go into overdrive to create unrest.

And if this is the case, they’ve done a good job - hundreds of thousands of people are demonstrating in Tehran as I write. 

Sounds fanciful? Well former US President Bill Clinton "formally apologized on behalf of the United States” for what he termed “American crimes against Iran.”

Clinton relayed the story at the World Economic Forum in Davos in the March of 2005 admitting that in the 1950s the United States deployed the CIA to depose Mossadegh, who was an elected parliamentary democrat. Once he was out of the way the US brought back the Shah, a more compliant, agreeable leader who would do what he was told. (His equally compliant, but deluded, son is briefing those in Washington at the moment).

And just to make sure the brutal Shah remained on the Peacock Throne, the CIA helped train the secret police to teach them effective ways of suppressing the people through murder and torture.

The trouble is today’s mainstream media is not prepared to delve far enough in history and it seems there are those suffering from political amnesia, unwilling to check or remind their interviewees of that dreadful period when thousands upon thousands of innocent Iranians were slaughtered under the Shah’s regime.

To some journalists, it seems inconceivable the so-called hardline President had been re-elected. But perhaps that’s because most of the Iranians the Western journalists interview are privileged, English-speaking intellectuals who despise Ahmadinejad’s brash, combative style of leadership. Financially, they have not fared well under his leadership either so there's a lot of self-interest at stake as well.

At this point I should declare my own personal interest which stems from the fact that I present a political current affairs show called The Agenda for the Iranian-broadcaster Press TV which is owned by state-run television IRIB.

My other interest stems from the fact I’m quite a fan of Mahmoud Admadinejad who is adored by the common man and woman in Iran. Anyone who vows to narrow the gap between rich and poor can't be all that bad ... unless you’re one of the rich!

I have been to Iran twice now, and as a visitor anywhere, if you want to find out what is really happening on the ground don’t speak to the intellectuals or the politicians ... get a translator and grab a taxi.

Taxi drivers are a great source of information and they will give a more accurate view representing the man in the street - this is the man who can’t speak English and is therefore largely over-looked by lazy western journalists.

So was the Iranian election a fraud? I can't say either way with any authority but neither can those coming from western democracies. We, of all people, have no right to throw stones at Iran’s elections.

It is now well documented that the presidential elections which swept George W Bush to power the first time around were rigged, and there was a question mark over his second term. Sadly the complaint western media failed to expose this and indeed Fox News announced Bush was the newly-elected president without proof.

I’m told that more people in America voted for Pop Idol and America’s Got Talent TV shows than vote in the US presidential elections. True or not, they attracted vote rigging allegations as well.

I have stood as a candidate in elections in Britain before, and if everyone who pledged me a vote did exactly that when it came to putting a cross on the ballot paper I would be sitting in the House of Commons by now. The fact is that voters do weird things when left to their own devices in a polling station, away from the glare of political pressure groups. 

In 1992 the media polls told Labour Leader Neil Kinnock he was going to win the 1992 General Election from the Tories - he didn’t. Ever since that shock result politicians have lost confidence in voters ... they simply can’t be trusted to do the ‘right’ thing. They’re unpredictable which is why the Conservatives are taking nothing for granted this time around.

On a point of interest the '92 election was very close. Neil Kinnock lost by 1400 out of 25 million votes - it came to represent 21 seats, a bitter pill for anyone.

Proving election fraud in the face of an electronic system is difficult, but in Iran they used thumb prints and paper ballots in the astonishing 85 per cent turnout.

The country’s Supreme Leader has now ordered an investigation into voter fraud, it should be easy enough to check. If a handful of men have spent the last few months stamping their thumbprints on millions of hoax papers, it should emerge quite soon.

But the sad reality is the Mir Hossein Mousavi losers will not accept they’ve lost and the winners will never relinquish their victory.

At the end of the day will it make a great deal of difference? The reality is Ahmadinejad as president is not the most powerful person in Iran. He is not the commander in chief of the army or the security forces. He doesn't even have the power to go to war. 

Those powers are reserved for the supreme leader of Iran Ayatollah Khamenai

and if Iranian people want more say in the running of their country perhaps it is to him they should go for reform instead of listening to siren calls from the self-serving West.

* Yvonne Ridley has a weekly political show, The Agenda, which is broadcast on Press TV every Friday. She is also a founder of the RESPECT political party in England.

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