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CNN Misinforms Public; President Rouhani Never Recognized Holocaust (FARS News Agency, Iran)


The heat is on at the heart of the Islamic Republic, as hardliners seek to force CNN to apologize for a translation of an interview between President Hassan Rouhani and Christiane Amanpour. Apparently, according to this article by editor-in-chief of government mouthpiece FARS News Agency, the supreme leader finds it intolerable that his president is being portrayed as someone who condemns the Holocaust. The writer, Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm, says that CNN, unlike FARS, is failing to inform the public in an unbiased manner. Nice try. Unfortunately, whatever the veracity of his claims, misleading the public is what the FARS News Agency is all about - which Khoshcheshm well knows, and admits near the end of his piece.


By Seyed Mostafa Khoshcheshm


September 29, 2013


Islamic Republic of Iran - FARS News Agency – Original Article (English)

Iran President Rouhani addresses the 68th opening of U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 24.


UNITED NATIONS VIDEO: VIDEO: Iran President Rouhani addresses the 68th Opening of U.N. General Assembly, Sept. 24, 00:28:00.RealVideo

TEHRAN: When this week, CNN aired an interview with President Hassan Rouhani that misled the public and world media through a falsified translation of the president's remarks about the Holocaust, and after FNA protested, it sought to put the blame on others. Many, particularly here in Tehran, began to wonder whether the American network would have shrugged off an apology about misinforming the public had something similar happened during an interview with U.S. President Barack Obama. Perhaps this is one of those cases in which "American exceptionalism" is being applied.


Let's look at this case. FNA complained, and CNN projected the blame onto a translator that the U.S. network claims was assigned to the job by the Iranians. But wait a minute, aren't we supposed to be responsible for what we release to the public? Are we, as professional media, not duty-bound to provide the public with correct information in an honest and unbiased manner?


CNN and its host in the interview, Christiane Amanpour, are still trying to acquit themselves of any flaw in the translation. When it released the transcript of the interview and aired the voice of the translator they claim to have been introduced by companions of President Rouhani's (as The Washington Post, Business Insider and a host of other U.S. media have quoted CNN as saying). This makes the case even worse, because now they are insisting on insulting the public, unless we choose to believe that CNN and its host are so lost that they are unacquainted with professional courtesy, honesty, trustworthiness, truthfulness, and professionalism. However, I don't think that's the case.


CNN officials and Amanpour are either escaping or ignoring their responsibility to inform the public with honest and unbiased information. Do they not owe an apology to public opinion, and not just to the people of Iran, but to Americans and the rest of the world, particualrly the dozens of the media outlets around the world that misinformed their nations on the basis of an incorrect broadcast?


Even if we accept that CNN is not to blame for the wrong translation, we cannot ignore that the network should have first fulfilled its vital responsibility to check the veracity, authenticity and trustworthiness of the translation, given the importance of an issue like recognizing or rejecting the Holocaust, and particularly  when it relates to the words of  the president of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Should world opinion accept that CNN and Ms. Amanpour failed to check an interview by one of their rivals with President Rouhani, which was aired only five days before CNN, in which NBC News correspondent Ann Curry asked the president the same question twice, and President Rouhani repeated twice that "I am not a historian …"?


Yet again, now that the network knows of the untrustworthiness of the translation, it has a responsibility to inform the public of the error and air the interview again, but this time with a deserving translation. This, plus a professional apology, is the least the American network can do to make up for its gross mistake, instead of whitewashing what will otherwise be the intentional falsification of the president's remarks on the world stage.


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If the translator was hired by the Iranian delegation in New York, CNN certainly had a responsibility to check the translation and see if it met minimal standards and criteria. CNN's claim in this regard means that the translator was an outsider introduced by the Iranians, and this means that she should account for her work to the Iranians and not to CNN. How can one believe that a network like CNN isn't concerned with its professional reputation, taking it for granted.


Checking the accuracy of the translation would have been too easy to have gone unnoticed. Why? Because Christiane Amanpour was there. Amanpour knows Persian well enough, and even greeted President Rouhani in Persian. She appeared so attentive during the interview that it's almost impossible to believe she could have missed something or failed to grasp the meaning of President Rouhani's words. Perhaps she didn't check the translation in the course of production. Would a journalist like Amanpour, seen by many young Western reporters as an icon, make such a mistake! It is hard to believe. Some may say that her knowledge of Persian isn't very good. If so, CNN could have hired a reliable translator to verify or check the translation. Yet, one should know that there are many videos of Ms. Amanpour on the Internet showing her speaking fluent Persian, and even translating her sentences into English for the audience.


She has had long chats in Persian with Iranian reporters, including an FNA editor, and she has appeared very fluent.


Or perhaps CNN and Ms. Amanpour have checked the translation (before or after) airing the interview, but have found it proper and trustworthy, as they pretend to be the case, thus shunning our criticism. Well in that case, it might be helpful to look at the judgment of some other well-known Western media outlets and journalists:


When Sohrab Ahmari, the Wall Street Journal's assistant book editor, was asked to compare the translations of FNA and CNN to see if there was any ground for complaint, Ahmari (an Iranian-American) said in a tweeted message on Wednesday:


"FARS is right! I read/listened to #Rouhani in Pers. He condemns Nazi crimes but says Shoah "for historians to verify"


@SohrabAhmari Could you hear Rouhani's answer behind the voiceover? If so, is FARS's transcription accurate? And their translation?


@GileadIni FARS News translation IS accurate. I'm literally at my wits end re how far some journos will go to sell this moderate narrative.


@SohrabAhmari Thanks. The transcription, too? FARS' Persian script matches the audio?


@GileadIni Yes! Much more felicitous.


A Wednesday article of The Wall Street Journal (a version of which also appeared on page A14 in the U.S. edition on Thursday) strongly supports FNA's objection to CNN, saying:




"According to CNN's translation of Mr. Rouhani's remarks, the Iranian President insisted that 'whatever criminality they [the Nazis] committed against the Jews, we condemn.' Yet as Iran's semi-official news agency FARS pointed out, Mr. Rouhani never uttered anything approximating those words. Nor, contrary to the CNN version, did he utter the word 'Holocaust'. Instead, he spoke about 'historical events'. Our independent translation of Mr. Rouhani's comments confirms that FARS, not CNN, got the Farsi right."


Elsewhere, the WSJ article says:


"We'll leave it to CNN to account for its translation, and why it made Mr. Rouhani seem so much more conciliatory than he was. Meantime, points for honesty go to the journalists at Fars, who for reasons that probably range from solidarity to self-preservation aren't disposed to whitewash their President's ideological predilections."


Commentary Magazine, in an article on Wednesday [headlined Rouhani’s Holocaust Weasel Words], says a comparison of FNA's translation with the one which has been aired by the CNN reveals:


"When the two are compared it is clear that the network expanded on what he (i.e. President Rouhani) said to help convey the impression that he was condemning Holocaust denial when it is clear that he did no such thing."


"While the two have similarities, there is no doubt that the news outlet (i.e. CNN) airbrushed Rouhani's comments to the point where they are far more acceptable for a Western audience. The actual remarks make it clear that Rouhani is as much of an agnostic about the extent of the Holocaust as Ahmadinejad."


Elsewhere, Commentary adds:


"It is up to CNN to explain this attempt to falsify the content of the interview that goes beyond the usual discrepancies that often pop up in translations and crosses over into editorial malfeasance."


You may also add to the list a report by Business Insider which says:


"Now a third translation of Rouhani's comments concurs. The Wall Street Journal writes today that their independent translation agrees with FARS. Rouhani did not say the word 'Holocaust,' instead speaking vaguely about 'historical events.'


"So what happened? A CNN source told Business Insider that the translator who worked on the interview was 'hired by the Iranians', and the interview was 're-voiced/dubbed exactly as she translated.' CNN has now posted the entire transcript online."



"Perhaps it seems like semantics, or an honest result of different translation styles. However, given how closely the interview was being watched - not to mention the fact that the interviewer, Christiane Amanpour, is fluent in Farsi herself - it's a big issue."

Posted By Worldmeets.US


And when the above-mentioned media and many others express their independent judgment out of professional courtesy, Ms. Amanpour shows her uncontrollable fury in several tweets and insults both toward they and FARS for the sin of practicing professional journalism:


Christiane Amanpour


"Stunned by willingness of @WSJ ed page and others to jump into bed with Iranian extremist mouthpiece like Fars....


Christiane Amanpour


..."Points for honesty go to the journalists at Fars" ? Really???...


Now that it's clear that the translation contains false information, CNN needs to correct its mistake and air the interview with a proper translation. As long as the American news network insists on its stance, people are entitled to continue adding to the negative comments that they have left in different world media in protest of CNN's attempted falsification.


Finally, since Wednesday when we started criticizing CNN, our only goal has been to stop an unethical practice and feed true information to the public, as required by the codes of professional journalism. This is especially the case, thanks to a lack of such practices on the part of Iranian media during President Ahmadinejad's years in office. This provided an opportunity for many in the West to misinterpret and mistranslate his words in a bid to provoke public sentiment and stir tension between Iran and the United States. Such dishonest practices served no one's interests, expect those hungry for war.


President Rouhani is the head of our country and represented the Iranian nation at the U.N. His remarks are ours. Moreover, he is an erudite man vested with full authority by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei. That means he receives enormous support for his actions and policies from the Iranian nation. This can be seen in the backing for his address to the U.N. General Assembly on the part of a large number of state and military officials, as well as political figures from across the political spectrum.


We all condemn crime, murder and genocide, no matter who the perpetrator or victim may be.


We all deplore the atrocities of the Nazis during World War II and feel sympathy for all those who lost their lives, family members or friends in that warm whether they are Jews, Christians or Muslims.


But, what we stand against is the falsification, fabrication and purposeful misinterpretation of statements or beliefs, especially when they are directed at our esteemed president.


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Posted By Worldmeets.US Sept. 29, 2013, 3:29am