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New York Times Iran Reporter Denounces Critics as ‘Trolls’

avatar by Ira Stoll

Opinion

A taxi passes by in front of The New York Times head office, Feb. 7, 2013. Photo: Reuters / Carlo Allegri / File.

A New York Times reporter who covers Iran is defending herself after nearly 100 Iranians signed an open letter to Times editors accusing her of “normalizing the Islamic Republic’s brutality” and failing to meet the paper’s journalistic standards.

The reporter, Farnaz Fassihi, on September 14 tweeted aStatement from the New York Times to the trolls and whoever needs to hear it: ‘Farnaz Fassihi is an accomplished reporter who has covered Iran for several decades. We are confident in the accuracy of her reporting for the New York Times.’”

In a pinned tweet from August 6, she says,I am grateful for the stellar support of leadership voiced in this statement as I’ve faced months of harassment, slander, death & rape threat from some Iran opposition groups & trolls.” That retweets a statement from the New York Times’ corporate communications account that says, “Journalists around the globe, particularly women and journalists of color, are being targeted for the role they play in ensuring a free and informed society. They should be free to work without harassment.”

The open letter, at least as I read it, isn’t “harassment” but rather a reader complaint. “We seek to hold Farnaz Fassihi accountable for her misrepresentation of the current state of Islamic Republic’s brutal suppression, mass killing, and imprisonment of peaceful protesters, journalists, conscientious objectors, political dissidents, and countless ordinary citizens,” the letter says.

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“We find NYT’s unverified accusations against Iranian Twitter users illustrative of a structural racist view within this publication against Iranian people,” says the open letter. “The declaration of support for Fassihi paints Iranians with the stale stereotypes of ‘violence and misogyny’ of Middle Eastern people. In this light, the tweet effectively acts as a ‘sword’ against the oppressed marginalized many, and not as a ‘shield’ in defence of the said NYT-affiliated journalist.” Fassihi “consistently resorts to self-victimization tactics in the face of criticism,” the letter says, noting that while her critics are being accused of misogyny, the critics themselves include “many women.”

Among the examples of Fassihi’s coverage being highlighted for criticism: an August Times dispatch blaming the Delta variant of coronavirus for ravaging Iran. The critics say Iran’s pandemic woes aren’t the fault of the Delta variant but rather caused by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s ban on the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines. “Fassihi fails to hold Khamenei accountable for the ban and thus, for the hundreds of thousands of covid related deaths in Iran,” the open letter says.

The letter also faults Fassihi’s reporting on a funeral procession for Iranian terrorist kingpin Qassem Soleimani. Fassihi claimed in the Times that the procession stretched “over 30 kilometers, or almost 20 miles” through the Iranian city of Ahvaz. The critics say that is a geographical impossibility, and that the distance couldn’t have been more than 3 kilometers.

The letter also criticizes Fassihi’s social media posts for whitewashing the Iranian regime. It links to a Twitter thread:Last year, she posted this video calling it a ‘slice of life’ in Iran: women dancing, no hijab. Hijab is compulsory in Iran and dancing is not allowed. In fact, a few days later many people involved in the same video were arrested.”

The letter is signed by 92 people, including 25 who identified themselves as family members of those who perished aboard a Ukrainian passenger plane, Flight 752, that was shot down by an Iranian missile in January 2020.

Ira Stoll was managing editor of the Forward and North American editor of the Jerusalem Post. His media critique, a regular Algemeiner feature, can be found here.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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