Western media has a notorious reputation for misrepresenting developing countries. This article will discuss how the media misrepresents Iran with framing, agenda-setting and manipulation. It will also debunk the common stereotypes embedded in these examples of misinformation.
Iran as a Pro-Terrorism Country
Categorizing Iran as a pro-terrorist country is the largest example of how the media misrepresents Iran. Western media is very quick to blame Iran-based problems on terrorism and, often times, radical Islam. In fact, Iran’s legislation and government officials have clearly proven that they’d prefer Iran to be on sound terms with other nations.
Iranian citizens have been dissatisfied about government spending and its foreign ventures for over a decade now; they would rather spend money internally. To note, reformist president Hassan Rouhani was actually approved for office because of his promise to improve relations with other nations.
Both him and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are seen as national heroes for their desire for peaceful relations with other countries. To note, western media emphasizes this (false) aspect of Iran the most.
Iran as an Anti-Israeli Country
Characterizing it as a nation with a vendetta against Israelis is the next most common way of how the media misrepresents Iran. Though some Iranian leaders have verbally attacked Israel (like president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose presidency ended in 2013), Iranian citizens have proven to contradict this anti-Israeli feeling.
Larry Cohler-Esses, Jewish journalist, decided to travel to Iran for an exclusive look at Iranian citizens daily lives and genuine feelings. He found that most Iranians are, again, more concerned with domestic issues, with fears surrounding isolation and struggling economically. Indeed, individual citizens have no interest in attacking Israel, but the Iranian government does.
Iran as an Oppressive Country
Western media also misrepresents Iran as a country that oppresses and discriminates against religious minority groups. Iran is known for typically having a conservative, Muslim government that many assume oppresses other religions.
It is true that there has been discrimination against the Baha’i community, but this is because the Baha’i faith has been consider heretical since the 19th Century; however, discrimination is only directed toward the Baha’i community but not to Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians and other religious communities.
Iran as a “Backwards” Nation
The media has presented Iran as an impoverished country that is struggling to modernize society. When Cohler-Esses traveled to Iran, he saw no evidence of this.
Instead, he saw a well-educated, youthful population that was fashionable, modern, and critical of their own government. The media also presents Iran as a country with little to no free press, but instead, reformist newspapers have gotten more popular over the years. While Iran does frequently have issues with legislation that constantly changes and effects freedom of press, the nation’s press ultimately has a fair range of freedom to vocalize their concerns.
The media continues to paint Iran as a country with little to no growth or progress, ignoring its efforts to modernize and industrialize society; fortunately, though, this myth continues to be disproven, time and time again.
The media landscape continues to paint blurry pictures of developing countries, but as countries continue to modernize, the reality will present itself — especially in the case of Iran.
– Chylene Babb