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Iran and Al-Alam News Media

Alia Malek writes in Columbia Journalism Review:

After confessing to the world on camera that she and her British crew had trespassed into Iranian waters this past March, sailor Faye Turney pressed a cigarette to her lips and took a long, deep drag. The way she immediately reached for the fix and inhaled its relief seemed to belie everything she had just been prompted to say by her Iranian interviewer, from her admission of guilt to how her captors were friendly, hospitable, thoughtful, and compassionate.

Five days had passed since the world had seen Turney and fourteen other U.K. sailors and marines who had disappeared into Iranian detention for allegedly violating their waters. During her “interview,” Turney was no longer in her sailor’s uniform, wearing instead a boxy white blazer, her hair covered by a black compulsory headscarf. While she and a commentator spoke, B-roll showed several shots: the British crew being transported on a vessel flying the Iranian flag, a letter from Turney to her parents, and the crew again eating dinner off white trays resting on their laps.

Until Iranian state-run TV broadcast these images, those around the globe envisioning what may have happened to the sailors and marines in Iranian captivity were at the mercy of their imaginations, influenced by Iran’s human rights record, by what pundits were warning, and by the potential consequences of internationally reported American and British mistreatment of Muslim prisoners.

The diplomatic standoff continued for another seven days, interspersed with more videos released from Iran showing more confessions from other crewmembers of the HMS Cornwall. Then suddenly, much to the surprise of British officials working to secure their sailors’ release, the affair ended. Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad pardoned the crew, calling it a gift to the British people in advance of Easter and the Prophet Muhammad’s birthday—all of this again broadcast live and on state-run TV.

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