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In the Newsroom

September 24, 2009
Walkouts inside, protests outside for Ahmadinejad at U.N.

Ben Piven and Mohammad Al-Kassim are reporting from the United Nations for Worldfocus.

Ben Piven describes Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s speech on Wednesday, and the atmosphere at the U.N.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad speaks before the United Nations General Assembly.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad delivered a wide-ranging speech to the U.N.’s General Assembly on Wednesday, emphasizing the ideological contrast between his Islamic values and Western materialism, which he blamed for the global economic downturn.

He strongly condemned Israel’s invasion of Gaza and also derided Jewish global influence. “The international community is calling the occupiers ‘peace-lovers’ and the victims ‘terrorists,'” said Ahmadinejad. But he didn’t repeat inflammatory comments about wiping Israel off the map or denying the Holocaust. Some commentators took this as a sign of Ahmadinejad’s newfound conciliatory attitude.

Even though the Iranian leader expressed some openness to American diplomatic gestures, his speech received mixed reactions from the audience at the U.N. Most Western delegations walked out of the General Assembly chamber after Ahmadinejad took the podium, but there was no heckling by visitors.

“Our nation has successfully gone through a glorious and fully-democratic election,” said Ahmadinejad, who also called for the “elimination of all nuclear, chemical and biological weapons.” Positioning himself as a third world populist, Ahmadinejad declared, “The hegemony and domination of a few governments is over.”

Throngs of pro-democracy protesters clamored for attention outside the world body’s New York headquarters. Many wore green, the color adopted by supporters of reformist candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi in June’s disputed elections.

Watch: Protesters outside United Nations headquarters.

Mohammad Al-Kassim describes how Ahmadinejad’s speech was portrayed in the Iranian press:

It’s true that he who has control of the flow of information has power over people.

For this reason alone, during the general assembly meetings each year, many governments dispatch an army of journalists to accompany their official delegates. It’s extremely important for high-ranking officials to be viewed in a certain way — to appear respected, intelligent and important in their countries.

That was evident during this year’s meeting, where presidents, prime ministers and high-ranking officials were surrounded by official media from their countries, who were carefully filming, writing and selectively editing their packages.

As part of my job at Worldfocus, every morning, I closely follow many news media outlets from the Middle East. What caught my eyes while scanning Iranian news outlets was how Ahmadinejad’s speech was covered by the Iranian media.

For example, Press TV — which is a government-funded English news channel — aired this broadcast report:

The package included footage of the Iranian president delivering his speech, and the camera cut to footage of an almost-full General Assembly hall — though from where I was seated, the hall looked mostly empty.

None of the Iranian media outlets that I checked mentioned any of the large number of vocal Iranian protesters outside the U.N. building. An article on the speech appeared on the Iranian government-funded Alalam news Web site, but it didn’t mention the walk outs or the demonstrations.

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1 comment


Mr. Ahmadinejad is a very intelligent man. However when world leaders walk out of their meetings with the intent to disrespect one another they lessen the general respect that for one another. They should always be willing to let every person speak and listen to what everyone has to say.

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