Babylon & Beyond

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IRAN: Ahmadinejad plays foreign press

February 4, 2008 |  2:16 pm

A foreign correspondent for a major European newspaper was in Tehran the other day along with her editor. They were at the Laleh Hotel, a giant place that was part of the Intercontinental chain before the 1979 Islamic Revolution and is now believed to be a major surveillance outpost used by the Ministry of Intelligence and Security of the Nation.

The correspondent came to Tehran in coordination with both the Iranian Embassy in Paris and the office of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who had arranged an “exclusive” interview for the newspaper with the feisty head of state. They were to return home the next day after the interview, leaving them with little time to explore the country and find out what ordinary people think.

Analysts say this type of touch-and-go journalism has become common during Ahmadinejad's term. He has sat down for many interviews with Western journalists in the past two years, more than all the interviews of the presidencies of Hashemi Rafsanjani and Mohammed Khatami combined.

Observers have marveled at how he successfully manipulated the Western media into faithfully reproducing his own repetitive rhetoric and putting him at the top of the news at any cost. Sometimes it seems like the Western media has been ensnared by his media team as its own envoys to the West.

— Ramin Mostaghim in Tehran

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