Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Who speaks for the Iranian government?

The Iranian newspaper Kayhan, which is under the supervision of the office of the country's Supreme Leader, has called Carla Bruni Sarkozy a prostitute and said she deserves to die (the comments were prompted by Bruni's public intervention in the case of an Iranian woman who was condemned to death by stoning for adultery). But a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry has said, in effect, "cool it." He has attempted to distance the foreign ministry from the newspaper's comments, insisting that critics can be taken to task without the use of insults.

So who speaks for the Iranian government? Kayhan or the spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministry? Perhaps they both do. Autocratic regimes don't always speak with one voice. Even some totalitarian regimes don't always speak with one voice. Thus it was misleading for the Daily Telegraph to go with the headline "Iran calls Bruni a prostitute." In fact, "Iran" did no such thing. A newspaper that may represent one element of the regime did. There's a difference.

For links on this episode (brouhaha, whatever) see the Wikipedia entry on Kayhan, under the heading "Controversies."

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