Thursday, July 19, 2007

What the Japanese Media Make of the Iranian TV Broadcast of the Iranian-American Prisoners' Footage

The US media is awash with reports and op-eds about the airing on Iranian TV of the footage of the Iranian-American scholars imprisoned in Iraq. The issue has not gone totally unnoticed in the Japanese media. The Asahi headline reads: US Researchers, etc. Detained in Iran Reveal Democratization Schemes; Yomiuri chooses to go with: Iran National TV Shows Images of Detained Americans. Mainichi and Sankei do not have it on their web site yet.

Now "scheme" may be somewhat strong as a translation, but the original word "工作 kousaku" is used in this kind of context to connote activities by "agents and spies". Does this choice of words by Asahi mean that it agrees with the Iranian authorities, or does it mean that it has reached that conclusion independently on the basis of the following quote in the Asahi:

"[Haleh Isfandari] described the Wilson Center as a highway for antiestablishment people to come to the US. [She] said that there was an intent to influence and change decision-making in Iran."

This must be referring to the following words by Mrs. Isfandiari:

"The goal of the Iran program," she recounted, "was that, whenever a speaker comes from Iran and talks at an important place like the Wilson Center, some people come and listen. Who are these people? They are policymakers . . . people who are active in the U.S. government institutions, people who work in Congress, people who are in the intelligence agencies, people who are in the media, people who are in foundations, who are in universities, and people who are in research organizations." (from preceding WaPo link)

Or, to quote the NYT:

"But the purpose of inviting speakers from Iran," she said, "was to have a group of people listen to them. These people were American political decision makers, congressmen, intelligence figures, academics, researchers and journalists." She added, "And so the purpose was to create a network between the speaker and these people."

Oddly, neither WaPo nor NYT mentions a "highway" or "influence and change decision-making in Iran", though it would be silly to assume that the project has nothing of the sort in mind. But then, what state does not conduct this kind of first-track, second-track public diplomacy?

In any case, manufacturing a quote for Mrs. Isfandari, if that is indeed what happened at Asahi (I confess that I trust the two US newspapers more than the Japanese media in the use of quotation marks), as well as using a word full of negative connotations like "kousaku, leave me with the feeling that Asahi is delivering an anti-US editorial in the guise of straight news.

No comments: