Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Crass journalism muddles already murky understanding.

UPDATE
The Guardian article I criticise now appears on the Guardian website in an edited form having recognised its inaccuracies and been corrected.  It now contains the following clarification:
This clarification was published on Tuesday 21 April 2009.

The Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmedinejad, deviated from his prepared speech to the UN racism conference, omitting the phrase "the ambiguous and dubious question of the Holocaust". The original text was given to journalists by the Iranian mission to the UN, and was included in the report below in good faith.
The post quotes parts of the Guardian article that have subsequently been corrected.

My original post read as follows

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a contentious figure. Contemptible statements have been attributed to him – and contested. In short, many view him as an anti-Semite. This claim emerges primarily from his pronouncements on the Holocaust and Israel. He allegedly denies the Holocaust and argues that Israel should be ‘wiped of the map’. The claims made in his defence are that his words were poorly translated, taken out of context, exaggerated and manipulated. This is certainly true, to some extent.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 2
It is interesting to note that even the Guardian, arguably the most left leaning British broadsheet, opted not to report the apparent applause for parts of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech to the United Nations. They preferred to focus on the less appealing aspects of his speech.
When he did speak, he was even more vitriolic than they had feared. In a rambling polemic, Ahmadinejad questioned the reality of the Holocaust, accused Israel of genocide and spoke of a wide-ranging Zionist conspiracy, triggering pandemonium and a coordinated walkout by Britain and other EU states.
This is not true. Ahmadinejad had not ‘questioned the reality of the Holocaust’ ‘triggering pandemonium and a coordinated walkout by Britain and other EU states’. If he did question the reality of the Holocaust in this speech, it was after the walkout. If he did question the reality of the Holocaust in this speech, I am yet to find evidence as an entire transcript is not yet available*. The BBC news ‘In quotes: Ahmadinejad speech’ provides no evidence of Holocaust denial in this speech. It is worth reiterating, if he did question the reality of the Holocaust in this speech, it was after the walkout.

It is true that Ahmadinejad accused Israel of genocide and spoke of a wide-ranging Zionist conspiracy. Talk of genocide of Palestinians came after the walkout had begun.

I am not arguing about the contents of Ahmadinejad’s speech, its merits or its demerits (although I may do at a later date). Nor am I arguing in defence of him or his regime – just type ‘Iran’ into Human Rights Watch to see Iran’s hall of shame. I would welcome greater exposure of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s deplorable actions. It is the opportunism and needless exaggeration that I deplore. Crass journalism muddles our already murky understanding. The report should be balanced rather than put through a filter that makes the story less edifying.

For supporting evidence follow the links in - 'Walkout at Iran leader's criticism of Israel'

* See UPDATE below

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