There is a billboard right outside the headquarters of The New York Times, and the message it carries shows the placement is no accident. “Do not listen to Mullahs’ apologists in the US media”. The signage is embossed with a portrait of Iranian leader Ali Khamenei packing a gun, explaining the atrocities of the Iranian gov.
The black-and-white billboard, which will be displayed for at least a month, is the hard work of 30 Iranian activists outside Iran.The initiative itself comes from a simple builder Ali Ebrahimzadeh, originator of the popular Farsi Twitter campaign #normalliving who by sharing pictures of his ordinary life in US has engaged Iranians in the discussion of how abnormal their lives under a theocratic dictatorship is. Many Iranians yearn for a life with no policing over clothes, lifestyles, drinking, dancing and most dangerous of all, free opinions. They yearn for a country which money goes to its citizens’ welfare rather than nuclear weapons, conflicts and exporting revolution.
The reason that this billboard is now on the show is to make the general public aware of the biased reporting of New York times and some other measure western outlets on Iran which distresses Iranian activists even from inside Iran. The narrative of this outlet particularly only concentrates on Iranian regime being a victim of Imperialist US and Israel whereas the picture is far more complicated.
Thousands of stories of ordinary Iranians’ sufferings under the Iranian regime and crises inside Iran has not and probably never will be shared by way of this media outlet. That work has been completely left to the activists. But the plight of ordinary Iranians and Iran’s internal crisis under an abnormal regime must not be untold — Stories from the women abused on the street by morality hijab-police to the factory workers beaten up due to protesting for lack of payments to the ordinary citizens who have asked in a petition the leader Khamenei to step down getting tortured in jail — shouldn’t be an exclusively activist affair. It is part of the “Iran’s story” that is completely left out by outlets like the New York Times. The New York Times’ Persian reporter is especially criticized.
The billboard specifically refers to the plight of 1500 innocent demonstrators shot dead on the streets during anti-government protests in 2019, along with the 176 innocent passengers of the Ukrainian plane flight PS 752 downed by Revolutionary Guards near Tehran early last year. Families of the victims are constantly jailed, beaten up and harassed for speaking up about them in Iran, asking for justice. Yet, there is no coverage of them anywhere in this outlet.
The Twitterstorm #NYTimespropaganda in April this year where thousands of Iranians took part, put focus on the media platform’s sad history in this respect. Social media is an extremely important tool to connect to the Iranian people. It helps them voice dissatisfaction with the regime under anonymous accounts. They avoid protests on the streets of fear of arrest, torture or execution after several massacres. But social media are also filtered by the government; Iranian users have to use special services to break the lock. Still, it’s the only place they can actively protest at the moment. Their stories often make headlines in measure Persian-speaking TVs outside Iran, often turned into a scandal where the Iranian authorities are forced to answer. The billboard asks the US media to engage with Iranians directly on social media.
A few months ago came the shocking news of a New York Times Iranian writer and opinion contributor, Kaveh Afrasiabi, who was arrested in the US on charges of working for a foreign government. During #NYtimespropaganda, many used the story of Walter Duranty as a tragic example of biased reporting of the New York Times. Duranty served as Moscow bureau chief of The New York Times for fourteen years (1922–1936) and received a Pulitzer Prize for a series of reports about the Soviet Union. He was later on criticized for his subsequent denial of widespread famine (1932–1933) in the USSR, particularly the famine in Ukraine which resulted in the death of millions. Some campaigners wrote in detail about specific examples of the outlet’s one-sided reporting.
The biased reporting on Iran has become a problem for some well-known western outlets, their Tehran correspondents of fear of losing their work permits by Iranian government try to not report on subjects not allowed by the ministry of intelligence in Iran. They often solely report on the difficulties caused by sanctions that is aligned with Iranian government policies and nothing else. This type of one-sided reporting on Iran pose a threat to the integrity of independent journalism. But most of all it only tells half the truth about Iran and Iranians.