The passage of time has provided many concrete examples of the perils of journalism. Within the past year there have been plenty of kidnappings throughout the Middle East and few releases. However, a new issue has burst onto the scene recently: that of the jurisdiction of these countries in arresting journalists and reporters whom they view as protestors or directly threatening to the political system.
The most recent example of this is found in the arrest of Iranian-American journalist, Kian Tajbakhsh, for his protests to the outcome of the recent Iranian election. According to CNN, he underwent trial procedures with other journalists, reformist leaders and former government ministers with the total amounting to nearly 100 people of the 1,000 who had been detained. Iran, in its fit to demonstrate power, has once again proven itself to be an enemy of humanitarian efforts and is further isolating itself from the good esteem of neighboring countries. By negating these trials, perhaps it could finally take a step in the right direction.
But this arrest is not an isolated incident. Though the regime of Ahmadinejad has long been criticized for its anti-Western rhetoric and condemnation of various social groups, others also view journalists as a threat. Myanmar officials recently arrested a rogue US civilian for his attempt to ‘rescue’ a pro-democracy leader, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, while she was under house arrest.
Earlier this summer, two Korean-American journalists were sentenced to 12 years hard labor by the government of North Korea for illegal entry into the country. It seems free speech and demonstration are not considered fundamental rights everywhere. Rather, stability and organization focused around a strong leader are the more valued characteristics.
A less aggressive, though perhaps more demonstrative example of this is in China’s heavily regulated communication network systems. The country unjustly censors a large amount of media both coming into and leaving the country. Internally, Google searches yield unusual results; a query for ‘Tiananmen Square’ shows nothing about the military’s violent response to pro-democratic protests in 1989. Instead it shows the current gardens and tourist areas of the region. The government fears that rioting and protests may ensue. Additionally, when such reactions do occur, the government tends to ‘make an example’ of the violators by quelling any of these revolutionary desires that may arise in the common man.
Sadly, this is exactly what is occurring in Iran. Tajbakhsh, arrested along with other intellectuals in the protest of the election, will serve as nothing more than a reference of a potential fearful outcome for those considering similar responses. However, they now finally have the opportunity to improve their relationship with other respectable nations and particularly their perception by the United States. Burma eventually reduced the sentence in its convictions mentioned above, and Korea rescinded the punishment all together. By doing so, they engaged in an active response to the desires of the global community. Another example exists in Karzai’s agreement to obey the Afghan constitution and engage in a runoff election because a majority consensus was not achieved the first time and because of allegations of massive ballot fraud.
Both of these exhibit a desire for diplomacy, an engagement of compromise rather than aggression and the intent of gaining control or power. This is exactly the type of action that should be taken in any similar future circumstances. By repealing this arrest of Tajbakhsh, the Iranian government could send a message that it is ready to cooperate within the larger realm of politics and perhaps begin to establish itself as a respectable nation.
Matt Boaz is a senior political science major from Edmond, Okla.