Robert Fisk (thankfully a few such reporters do exist) sifting fact from fantasy in Iran

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by Neil Godfrey

Robert Fisk’s latest from Iran in The Independent:

In Tehran, Fantasy and Reality Make Uneasy Bedfellows

Some excerpts . . . .

On the myth of Iranian crackdown on western reporters (and CNN bias):

But then we had the famous instruction to journalists in Tehran from the Ministry of Islamic Guidance that they could no longer report opposition street demonstrations. I heard nothing of this. Indeed, the first clue came when I refused to be interviewed by CNN (because their coverage of the Middle East is so biased) and the woman calling me asked: “Why? Are you worried about your safety?” Fisk continued to spend 12 hours a day on the streets. I discovered there was a ban only when I read about it in The Independent. . . . . .

On a woman who told him of something sounding like a state-sponsored murder:

I never saw her again. Nor the photograph. Nor had anyone seen the body. It was a fantasy. Earnest reporters check this out – in fact, I have been spending at least a third of my working days in Tehran this past week not reporting what might prove to be true but disproving what is clearly untrue.

After getting a phone call in the middle of the night about a reported massacre of students on a university campus, and being informed of photographic evidence of the shooting of a young male student the day before, Fisk found both stories to be total fantasy. Yet that did not stop his newspaper editor calling him to ask about the news he had heard:

There are few provable assurances in the Middle East, often few facts and a lot of lies. Dangers are as thick as snakes in the desert. As I write, I have just received another call from Lebanon. “Mr Fisk, a girl has been shot in Iran. I have a video from the internet. You can see her body…” And you know what? I think he might be right.


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5 thoughts on “Robert Fisk (thankfully a few such reporters do exist) sifting fact from fantasy in Iran”

    1. Perhaps I can encourage you to investigate facts and sources.

      Here’s one for a start

      Assertion of a Fact: Robert Fisk is regularly critical of the Iranian regime and particularly scathing of Ahmadinejad in particular.

      Source of the above assertion: The following paragraphs in the above linked article:

      Fisk on the Iranian regime in the above article:

      For with their usual, clumsy, autocratic behaviour, the clerics behind the Islamic Republic may have decreed that only a greater majority for the winner could decisively annihilate the reputation of its secular opponents. . . . And the Islamic Republic itself – while it has understandable historical roots in the savagery of the Shah’s regime which preceded it, not to mention the bravery of its people – is a dangerously contrived and inherently unfree state which was locked into immobility by an unworldly and now long-dead ayatollah.

      Fisk on Ahmadinejad in the above article:

      Yes, Ahmadinejad remains for me an outrageous president, one of those cracked political leaders – like Colonel Ghaddafi or Lebanon’s General Michel Aoun – which this region sadly throws up, to the curses of its friends and to the delight of its enemies in the West.

      In another recent article

      Fisk on Ahmadinejad

      it’s one thing to say – as Mousavi’s loyalists have done consistently – that their protest is only against a fraudulent vote and the awful Ahmadinejad

      Fisk on the regime and personalities in it

      It was predictable, ruthless, alarming, intended to put the fear of God – yes, God indeed – into his enemies. . . .

      Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was Thomas Cromwell yesterday, praising those he loathed . . . .

      But the Supreme Leader is not a stupid man. So why did he glue himself to Ahmadinejad? Could it be he is worried about another very powerful clergyman . . .

      In another:

      On both:

      “President” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – and the quotation marks are becoming ever more appropriate in Iran today – is in real trouble. There are now three separate official inquiries into his supposed election victory and the violence which followed, while conservative Iranian MPs fought each other with their fists at a private meeting behind the assembly chamber, after Ahmadinejad’s members objected to an official’s reference to the “dignity” with which the opposition leader, Mirhossein Mousavi, answered parliamentary questions. Those close to the man who still believes he is the President of Iran say that he is himself deeply troubled – even traumatised – by the massive demonstrations against him across the country.

      For a series of some of the most sarcastic descriptions of Ahmedinejad, read Fisk’s account of his and other journalists interviewing Ahmedinejad here

      So, tell me, why should it be “hilarious” that Iran would allow Robert Fisk to report from their country?

      Given the above factual and sourced citations of Robert Fisk’s recent reporting (and as any google search will show, he has spoken scathingly of Ahmedinejad and the Iranian regime many times before now), why do YOU think that the Iranian regime is leaving Robert Fisk alone?

  1. JW:
    The main issue is whether Iran is seriously restricting reporters from reporting on protests in Iran. Obviously an ORGANIZATION would be an exponentially better source of information here than an individual. Every news organization I am aware of that has commented reports that there are serious restrictions on reporters in Iran. What news organization says there are no serious restrictions?

    Clearly the Iranian government has no credibility here. This is a government that denies the Holocaust and now reports that it is the Zionist controlled media that is behind the protests (wonder what took them so long). So first there are no protests and now there are but the Zionists are responsible. Which is it Neil?

    After you tell me what news organization says there are no serious restrictions (hell, even Al-jeezri is restricted) we can talk about the individual Fisk.


    1. Why would “an organization” have any more credibility (because it is an organization) than an individual? News organizations and rushed reporters find it much more economical to simply regurtitate government and business etc press releases. Grassroots organizations know this very well, since they also know that the surest way to get themselves in the news media is to prepare press releases for news editors. And one sees the same method at work every time news media claim a source for some news was a ‘press release’ or ‘press conference’ or such. In other words, news media find it far more economical to repeat what their major supporting government wants the public to hear and think.

      And don’t forget news media are not primarily there to give “news”. They are businesses that need to make money. They are writing not for the public directly, but for the advertizers — they are seeking to attract advertizing dollars. So to do that, they push out whatever news is going to get the right sort and size of readership for the advertizers.

      In effect, news media are in the business of selling a readership to advertizing companies. And anything that is going to risk alienating that audience for advertizers is not going to get published, or if it is, it will be an occasional article, generally in the back pages somewhere.

      So the U.S. media will as a rule appeal to U.S. nationalism, and eschew anything controversial in that regard.

      The clearest evidence that this happens was with the uncritical reporting of government announcements about Sadam Hussein and Iraq as the government worked to whip up national support for the war it wanted. Now, years later, at least in the U.K., judicial and other formal enquiries have demonstrated that most of what the govts were saying was indeed black propaganda. Lies. Half-truths. The only media where one could read critical reports at the time of the lead up to the war, who published revelations and criticisms that governments were lying to their people to get their support for war, were those media generally on the edges of the mainstream where independent reporters like Fisk and Pilger et al were allowed to publish their investigative (as opposed to repeating press releases) reporting. People who read these individual investigative journalist reports knew at the time that most of what they read in the mainstream media about Iraq’s links with Al Qaida and Husseins supposed refusal to cooperate with UN inspectors were all lies. Only now are formal enquiries revealing that these reporters got it right all along, and the mass media at the time was as culpable as the governments for the lies at the time.

      There is today some debate among some journalists even in the mainstream over their failure to question press releases at the time.

      Can anyone seriously say that FOX news is, since it is an organization, more reliable in its reporting than anything that has been written by Fisk? CNN and BBC and their clones appeal to a different audience by their different style, but their reporting standards and news value is generally, on major political and international affairs where American national pride and government agendas are at stake, little better than whatever the Russians read in Pravda or what one reads or hears today in countries like China.

      The tragedy is, that reporters in Russia and China have had good reasons to be cowered into repeating government press releases as “news”. There is nothing but unprofessional “being too busy” or “needing to economize” excuses in CNN and BBC today.

      As my previous posts pointed to articles discussing this in some depth, I invite anyone who questions the above thoughts to read those posts and compare with any CNN or BBC news report and listen carefully for what each claims for its sources, think about how they know, the questioning and investigation underlying the reports, and decide for themselves just how reliable CNN and BBC are as reliable “news sources” in major stories of international affairs in particular.

      I suspect that anyone who is an avid Zionist or U.S. Neo-Con would not give any credence at all to the news organization of Al Jazeera on grounds that it is an organization, for example.

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