In Focus: Conflicting Coverage on Iran

Summer Marion, Pulitzer Center

Iason Iran
Image by Iason Athanasiadis, Pulitzer Center grantee held in detention by the Iranian intelligence ministry for three weeks while reporting from Tehran on the contested June 2009 election.

The world's already-hazy view into the Islamic Republic was obstructed this week by a media blackout in response to anti-government protests turned violent. Scott Lucas of Enduring America, monitored developments including the January 4 blacklisting of 60 organizations by the Iranian intelligence ministry. Freedom House, the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and a sole university - Yale - were named among "subversive" Western institutions receiving this distinction.

The POMED Wire blog of the Project on Middle East Democracy provides a great synopsis of political and religious conditions contributing to the violence, including mourners' observance of the December 19 death of dissident cleric Hussein-Ali Montazeri, which coincidentally aligned with the Ashura protests.

Reports on the first use of violent opposition by the Green Movement since riots began over June's disputed election evidence forceful government retaliation; some accounts, like this video of security forces retreating from protestors and a hopeful email from a student in Tehran obtained by Andrew Sullivan at The Daily Dish, suggest the regime is losing legitimacy. The IRNA, Iran's state news agency, aired footage of throngs at pro-government rallies, while Josh Shahryar of The Daily Nite Owl, noting that the rallies offered free refreshments and bus service for government employees, asserts that voluntary attendance was meager.

Piecing together sporadic and conflicting coverage, some foreign journalists uncovered atypical stories. From Jerusalem for the LA Times' blog, Babylon & Beyond, Batsheva Sobelman exposes a lapse in Iranian denunciation of Israel (and the importance of double-checking the "send" field) with coverage of the resignation of an Iranian official who mistakenly emailed the Israeli football association wishing them luck in the upcoming year.