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IRAN: In wake of protests, accusations and counter-accusations of media lies

November 5, 2009 |  7:14 am

It was supposed to be a public show of Iranian unity during day marking the 30-year anniversary of the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Islamic revolutionaries.

But not only did anti-government demonstrators, many of them dressed in green scarves and headbands,  hijack the state-sponsored event. They also managed to steal the media's attention media, much to the displeasure of the authorities, who blamed the Western media for distorting the facts.

On the other hand, Iran's official media, also appeared to play fast and loose with reality. 

Iran’s official Islamic Republic News Agency, or IRNA, lashed out at foreign media outlets in a commentary, accusing them of fomenting violence and promoting anti-government demonstrators by airing “phony stories and images” from Wednesday’s rallies in Tehran.


“A number of foreign media outlets such as al-Arabia, al-Jazeera, BBC, CNN, and France24 are seeking to create widespread unrest and police brutality against the people by broadcasting phony stories and images from today (Wednesday) on the occasion of the taking of the den of spies [US embassy in Tehran] and the national day against the global arrogance,” read the report issued by IRNA.

The news outlet accused foreign media organizations of turning a blind eye to the “tens of thousands of people in Tehran” it claimed took to the streets to stand up against America and instead chose to file false reports to stir discord in the capital.

“The foreign media made no mention of the epic public turnout for 13 Aban [4 November]. They have created an emotionally charged environment, have published lies, and have highlighted certain parts of the news in order to create widespread unrest in Tehran,” said IRNA.

As proof of its claims, the news agency provides a long list of allegedly false reports from the Nov. 4 rallies put out by foreign news outlets. But it appears that some of IRNA’s allegations did not entirely square with video and photo evidence as well as eyewitness reports from the scenes of the protests.

IRNA alleged that the Associated Press claimed falsely that security forces were clashing with anti-government demonstrators in Tehran. But eyewitness accounts and videos circulated on the Internet (including the one above) show security forces beating demonstrators and crowds clashing with squads of riot police. 

IRNA also reported that reformist politician Mehdi Karroubi, who has become a central figure in Iran’s protest movement, did not appear in Tehran’s Haft-e Tir square to join the crowds of demonstrators despite eyewitnesses confirming his presence. 

Videos posted to YouTube (below) also show Karroubi receiving a rock star's greeting by supporters as he stepped out of his car to attend Wednesday’s rallies. 

Journalists working for foreign media outlets also came under fire.The Agence France Presse news agency reported that one of its Iranian reporters, Farhad Pouladi, was taken into custody by Iranian security forces while on his way to cover the rallies.

-- Alexandra Sandels in Beirut

Photos: Crowds of anti-government demonstrators took to the streets of Tehran on Wednesday.  Credit:Farhad Rajabali for the Times

Videos: Scenes of protests in Tehran on November 4. Credit: You Tube.