Al Seymour

Challenging week for media world

  • Columnist: Al Semour is a veteran journalist (File photograph)

Events unfolded the moment explosives from an American-controlled drone took the life of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani on orders from Donald Trump.

As tensions erupted in the Middle East faster than an exploding volcano, the world press scrambled amid a wave of confusing reports to find out what was happening in a region already ripe with violence.

The general was killed on Iraqi soil near their international airport.

Trump described the killing as necessary, citing Soleimani as a threat, with blood on his hands from the killings of hundreds of American soldiers, with further plots under way.

Iranians reacted with fury over Soleimani’s death and at one stage threatened to storm the American Embassy in Iraq. Concern mounted because if security was breached by angry Iranians, the likelihood of a military escalation would have been difficult to avoid.

With a nervous world watching reports from the area, journalists were hard-pressed in a hostile environment to gather facts. Iranian leadership, meanwhile, wasted no time in declaring that Iran was prepared to unleash a harsh response.

Aware they are no match for US military might, they made it clear they were capable of creating havoc with American allies.

As international concern grew about killing a high-ranking Iranian official, Trump said he ordered the drone attack to avoid war, not to start one. Many veteran observers globally had reservations the act would ease tensions between the two countries.

With Trump embroiled in impeachment hearings for allegedly abusing his power in office, Washington was buzzing that the president ordered the killing knowing it would be a distraction from the proceedings brought about by the Democrats.

It was left to House speaker Nancy Pelosi to keep the wheels of impeachment turning.

The free press were working around the clock to keep people informed.

Meanwhile another situation was about to unfold, where they would be up against the term “fake news”.

One thing journalists know is that no amount of fake news can replace truth and facts that support precisely any incident, no matter how sensitive.

The world became a spectator to a horrible tragedy when Iran, in the process of launching ballistic missiles towards American interests in Iraq, accidentally brought down an airliner resulting in the deaths of 176 people.

Early reports hinted that spy satellites had detected an object coming into contact with the aircraft before it exploded.

Despite this evidence, along with puncture holes in parts of the wreckage strewn over a wide area, Iran was in total denial that it had anything to do with the crash.

Fake news was blamed for suggesting Iran accidentally brought down the aircraft.

Journalists on the scene sensed something was not right, as evidence continued to mount that whatever happened had nothing to do with technical aircraft problems.

They also knew evidence was emerging that contradicted the Iranian theory of what caused the disaster.

A crucial factor was at play, and that involved highly qualified journalists who wanted to get the story right with facts supported by evidence.

Finally, Iranian authorities were forced to admit the airliner was brought down by their rockets, and that it was an error.

What angered many Iranians was that the leadership had given the people a version that they knew was not the truth.

People took to the streets to condemn their government for being untruthful about a horrible tragedy that also claimed many Iranian lives.

There is much talk these days about fake news, with even the President of the United States describing the media as the enemy of the people.

This almost incomprehensible tragedy in Iran will probably have long-term consequences and should serve notice to always be wary of first news reports, which usually are without all the facts.

People often are critical of the media, but without them a great deal would be left uncovered, and the people would be kept in the dark on matters concerning their daily lives.

It was indeed a challenging week for the press, but in the end it was truth that won the day for the good people of Iran, who believe doing what is right is always best.

The road ahead in the relationship between Iran and America will not improve until both are willing to negotiate a better arrangement for sharing their part of this planet.