SHAFAQNA – “Free speech, exercised both individually and through a free press, is a necessity in any country where people are themselves free.” – Theodore Roosevelt
Enshrined in British law in both Articles 10 and 11 of the Human Rights Act both freedom of speech and freedom to protest have been perceived and conceptualised as sine qua non to any functioning democracies – the expressions of the will and right of the people to hold their state representatives and system of governance accountable.
Reality dictates however that such rights remain tethered to very specific rules as not to infringe on the freedom of others, or bear a negative effect onto society by way of civil unrest, or rioting. In other words both freedom of speech and freedom to protest can be limited by law to protect the interests of others, under the strict condition that such limitations are proportionate and necessary in a democratic society.
So, for example the right to free speech will not protect a person who tries to spread hateful lies against another but it will protect fair comment; and the right to protest won’t protect violent gatherings but it will protect peaceful protest.
Freedom of late, has been subjected to much political subjectivity and interpretations to serve very particular agendas, more often than not in contradiction with the spirit of those very rights our modern democracies have said to front.
In recent years we have seen a variety of measures introduced that undermine the right to protest and freedom of speech in the UK.
Laws intended to combat anti-social behaviour, terrorism and serious crime are routinely used against legitimate protesters.
Broadly drafted anti-terrorism offences of ‘encouragement’ and ‘glorification’ of terrorism threaten to make careless talk a crime.
Membership of certain organisations can be banned under anti-terror laws even if the organisation is non-violent and political.
Hate speech laws have been extended in a piecemeal way to ban ever-expanding categories of speech.
Broad anti-terrorism powers of stop and search have been used to harass and stifle peaceful protesters.
Protest around Parliament has been severely restricted by laws limiting and overly regulating the right to assemble and protest around Parliament.
If a case is to be made on the state of Freedom in the UK, and to a broader extent all Western democracies, a more serious debate still lies in the manner other countries’ freedom, or lack thereof has been portrayed in the media to support of prejudiced policies.
December 29, 2017 saw the start of protests in the Islamic Republic of Iran. Immediately labelled as the expression of Iranians’ discontent for their system of governance, much of mainstream media – BBC in the lead, played protesters’ call for socio-economic reforms to what can only describe as anti-Iranian bias, going as far as alleging that Iran was on the brink of a complete institutional meltdown.
Rather than objectively report on facts, the BBC took it upon itself to manipulate facts to feed into a predetermined political narrative, in view of justifying a posteriori a rhetoric that has had Iran’s democratic system dubbed a fallacy.
However pleasing a revolution in Iran may be to a certain class of politicians, decontextualising facts to feed into a particular political reality remains yet another euphemism for deception. The fact that mainstream media used the power they wield to serve such agenda only reinforces the idea that media serve not the public, as their mandate dictated but the powers that be.
Far from being the boogeyman media have claimed, Iran actually provisions for its citizens’ right to protest, as per expressed in the constitution.
“Article 27: Public gatherings and marches are allowed so long as the participants do not carry arms and are not in violation of the fundamental principles of Islam.”
As noted by Shabbir Hassanally in a report for the American Herald Tribune, “This means, when the people have a legitimate grievance, they are perfectly within their rights to protest and voice their concerns – provided – they do so in a civilized manner, without violence or mindless rioting and without going against the fundamental principles of Islam. To put it simply, the people can protest when they have a grievance for example, provided they do so in a decent manner. It’s quite simple, and the norm in countries across the world.”
The analyst further opined: “In America, Britain and elsewhere, people have a right to protest (or at least that is what we are led to believe) – the legal position regarding freedom to protest in Britain for example, is far more draconian than in other countries and the extreme powers of law enforcement authorities regarding such protests are according to some “undemocratic. As for America, it is well known that when people come out to protest, there is almost always a very heavy-handed policy adopted by law enforcement , not to mention the restrictions on protesting that have been put in place by President Obama since the days of the Occupy Movement.”
In a tweet which was later on deleted Kenneth Roth, an American attorney who has been the executive director of Human Rights Watch since 1993, sold a picture featuring Iranian pro-government supporters as that of anti-government protesters, arguing Iranians’ outcry for a regime change.
Unfortunately for Mr Roth the image he argued to be the expression of Iranians’ anger towards their leadership read slogans fronted by that said-leadership …
While one could argue that one incident hardly makes a conspiracy, such ‘misuse’ of information becomes harder to ignore when it makes the frontpage of the New York Times with a title reading: “Iran Confronts 3rd Day of Protests, With Calls for Khamenei to Quit”.
Right on the heel of the New York Times, the BBC misportrayed calls for economic reforms – emphasis on economic and reforms, as calls for regime change; a deduction charged with political bias if one considers the current geopolitical context.
A BBC article read: “It’s not every day that there are thousands of people voicing opposition to the government. As night fell, reports were still coming of protests in many cities. There have been clashes with the police in some places. The common factor in all of them has been protesters’ demand for an end to clerical rule in Iran.”
And: “The protests started in the north-eastern city of Mashhad – the country’s second most-populous – on Thursday.People there took to the streets to express anger at the government over high prices, and vented their fury against President Hassan Rouhani. Fifty-two people were arrested.”
Such claims were then supported by way of visual aids to drive home the idea that Iran is sitting on the brink. Only such aids are but falsifications.
More to the point, those ‘protests’ western governments have been so keen on supporting off the bat, have already been dubbed by experts as yet another attempt by foreign powers to defeat Iran’s Islamic Republic from within.
Matt Agorist writes for Mintpress “While it would be irresponsible to assume all the protesters are foreign actors, it is also irresponsible to assume that it is entirely organic. Consider the following tweet below as evidence toward this assertion.
“I wanted to get money from ATM , Protesters shot at me with a gun, then asked me to say that police shot me, they were non-native,” said the Iranian who’d allegedly been shot by non-natives while trying to get money out of an ATM.
For those who may be unaware, the plan to overthrow Iran has long been in the works. In fact, in April 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Seymour Hersh reported that the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command had trained (Mojahedin-e Khalq) MEK operatives at a secret site in Nevada from 2005 to 2009. MEK is the Iranian political-militant organization that advocates for the violent overthrow of the current Iranian regime. They are hardly quiet about it.”
And: “According to Hersh, MEK members were trained in intercepting communications, cryptography, weaponry and small unit tactics at the Nevada site until President Barack Obama took office in 2009. Hersh also reported additional names of former U.S. officials paid to speak in support of MEK, including former CIA directors James Woolsey and Porter Goss; New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani; former Vermont Governor Howard Dean; former Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation Louis Freeh and former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton. Coincidentally, MEK was classified as a terrorist organization by the United States and its allies—during this training period—until they suddenly removed them from the list in 2012.”
Using a much harsher tone Whitney Webb argues: “Using the recent protests as cover, the governments of the United States and Israel are advancing a much larger plan for covert regime change against the Iranian government, one born out of the “secret deal”negotiated and signed between the two countries right before the widely covered but relatively small protests in Iran began in late December.”
And : “That deal, negotiated between National Security Adviser and neocon darling H.R. McMaster and his Israeli counterpart Meir Ben-Shabbat, secured the full cooperation of the Trump and Netanyahu administrations in targeting Iran’s “threatening activities” through a series of “memorandums of understanding.” As the Times of Israel reported, such cooperation is ultimately expected to translate into “steps on the ground” — a vague way of implying that aggressive actions will soon target Iran, including potential military action.”
Whether a conspiracy against Iran is afoot is actually of little consequence if we consider that mainstream media is peddling bias while claiming journalistic integrity.
If only mainstream could wield its so-claimed objectivism towards its own navel, we may yet read headlines that attest to Washington’s devolution into a dictatorial police-state and hear less about the coloured revolution a dying empire is attempting to rise in Iran, so that the Greater Middle Eastern region would kneel to its master.
By Catherine Shakdam