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Iranian State Television Attacks CNN's Fareed Zakaria


Fareed Zakaria's reports from Tehran have drawn the ire of Iranian state television.

Fareed Zakaria's reports from Tehran have drawn the ire of Iranian state television.

Iranian state television has attacked CNN's Fareed Zakaria over his recent reporting from Iran.

On the weekend of October 22-23, Zakaria traveled to Tehran, where he interviewed Iran's embattled President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

In an October 24 report, the state television network, which is controlled by Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, accused Zakaria of hurting the country's image under the watch of officials.

The Channel 2 network claimed Zakaria had aired "one-sided" reports from Iran in which conditions in the country had been portrayed as "dark and gloomy."

"He tried to show to his audience an Iran that the United States wants to see. For example, [Zakaria] tried to prove U.S. claims that Iran is under pressure because of the sanctions. In order to do so, he resorted to lies."

Zakaria said in one of his reports from the Iranian capital, which he described as a "bustling, cosmopolitan city," that ordinary Iranians seem to resent that they have to pay for the actions of their government.

"From the bazaar to shops of every kind that dot neighborhoods, you see Iranians doing business. Because of sanctions, you see very few Western brands. Every bank, store, and boutique has a local name with local products. There are some exceptions. Coca-Cola is here, as it is everywhere.”



WATCH: Iranian state television attacks Fareed Zakaria for his supposedly biased reports from Tehran. (In Persian)

In another report that has been widely shared on social media among opposition members, Zakaria reported that Gabriel Garcia Marquez's "News of a Kidnapping" has become a best seller among Iranians following a recommendation by opposition leader Mir Hossein Musavi.

Musavi, who's been under house arrest for more than seven months, is said to have told his daughters that whoever wants to understand his plight should read the book. ("Persian Letters" broke the news about Tehran's unlikely best seller in September.)

The state television network also accused Zakaria of trying to "neutralize" Iran's impact on the "Islamic awakening" in the region.

"Islamic awakening" is the term Iranian leaders use to describe the Arab uprisings, which they claim have been inspired by Iran's 1979 revolution.

Sensitive Questions

Iranian leaders have been expressing support for Arab protesters -- except in their ally country Syria -- while cracking down on opposition activists inside Iran.

In his report, Zakaria raised a sensitive question: Where are Iran's protesters in the year of the Arab Spring?

"One answer could be that the Iranian regime has really learned its lesson from 2009. Now it crushes the first signs of dissent. It's also learned from watching the Arab Spring -- it won't let hundreds of people gather in public places.

"But the likes of Libya and Syria tried that, too. What's different here is that Iranians are not Arabs. Many don't like the phrase 'Arab Revolutions.' You see, the word 'revolution' here in Tehran brings back memories of 1979, the year the Shah was overthrown.

"It was the time when Iranians felt like they could re-create their country. It was an Iranian Spring. It was their revolution.”

Some observers believe the attack against Zakaria, which comes amid an ongoing power struggle between Ahmadinejad and Khamenei and his powerful allies, also targets the Iranian government, which is in charge of issuing visas to visiting foreigners.

Reflecting The Views Of Hard-Liners

In the state television report, which reflects the views of hard-liners, charges of negligence are laid against the officials who allowed Zakaria to travel to Iran.

The report claims that it was not possible to "expect more from the correspondent of an American network such as CNN" and that the situation could have been avoided if those who issued Zakaria's visa had conducted "a simple background check."

“The attack against Zakaria demonstrates the rift within the Iranian political system," says Iranian journalist Roozbeh Mirebrahimi. "One faction accuses him of being the tool of intelligence agencies, while the other faction invites him to Iran.”

Ebrahimi says Iranian officials had referred to Zakaria in trials that took place during the postelection crackdown in 2009 and accused him of working against the Islamic republic on behalf of Western countries.

He adds that the anger directed at Zakaria was to be expected given the issues he covered in his reports.

In its report, state television claimed that Zakaria had pushed for a boycott of coverage of Ahmadinejad’s trip last month to New York, where he attended the UN General Assembly.

-- Golnaz Esfandiari

About This Blog

Persian Letters is a blog that offers a window into Iranian politics and society. Written primarily by Golnaz Esfandiari, Persian Letters brings you under-reported stories, insight and analysis, as well as guest Iranian bloggers -- from clerics, anarchists, feminists, Basij members, to bus drivers.

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