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    You can’t even trust texts carried in Iranian media

    October 25-2013

    The media in the Islamic Republic sometimes plays fast and loose with material its takes from the West, doctoring translations and often dropping paragraphs, or just phrases that do not meet with the regime’s ideological standards.

    But now the Fars news agency has been caught dead to rights by changing an English-language commentary it carried “textually” on its English language news service,

    The doctored article came from Foreign Policy magazine and was written by Shibley Telhami, a Palestinian who teaches at the University of Maryland in College Park.

    Fars removed some words but also added others to turn the article into what one commentator called “a propaganda piece in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.”

    The article, titled “Questioning Credibility,” analyses the argument of preserving US credibility through military action against Syria.  In the excerpts below, the bold-faced type highlights the main alterations Fars made

    In the second paragraph of his article, Telhami wrote:

    “Despite the talk of not being taken seriously, America remains a feared superpower in the Middle East, and Washington’s hand is seen in almost everything big and small.”

    Fars said it was reprinting the article textually, but it carried that sentence in English as:

    “In addition of the talk of not being taken seriously, America remains a hated country in the Middle East, for people in the region think that Washington’s hand can be seen in almost everything big and small.”

    In the following paragraph, where Telhami discusses “regional attitudes toward chemical weapons” the Iranian news agency added the word “alleged” before “chemical weapons,” in line with the Iranian official government position.

    Telhami then moves on to discuss the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian civil war:

    “The humanitarian concern arose at the outset of the Syrian uprisings, as Bashar al-Assad used the might of his army to brutally attack civilians. CW [chemical weapons] use was another example of brutality, but not the main force behind regional perceptions.”

    Apparently uncomfortable with the word “uprising,” Fars changed it to “crisis” and attributed the killing of civilians to “terrorists” not to President Bashar al-Assad, as the original stated.

    The Fars version for that part in the article is:

    “The humanitarian concern arose at the outset of the Syrian crisis, as terrorists used army to brutally attack civilians. CW use by extremists was another example of brutality, but not the main force behind regional perceptions.”

    The edits continued when the writer discussed Iran’s nuclear program.  Telhami wrote:

    “[D]espite popular unease with Iran and outright animosity toward Tehran by some rulers, the majority of Arabs have consistently opposed international pressure to curtail Iran’s nuclear program. Only a minority has said that a nuclear Iran would be bad for the region.” 

    Fars opted for a change:

    “[D]espite unease with Iran’s peaceful nuclear program and outright animosity toward Tehran by some rulers, the majority of Arabs have consistently opposed international pressure to curtail Iran’s nuclear program, even though Iran always has said that it sees no need to nuclear bomb.”

    Foreign Policy wrote in response:

    “Call it plagiarism by find-and-replace, or the Iranian state media’s house style. And perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised, given that we’re talking about a news agency that fell for an Onion [humor magazine] story about rural white American voters preferring former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadi-nejad to Barack Obama, and doctored a photo of Michelle Obama to cover up her shoulders.”  

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