HEATHER CREAMER WRITES – News about Iran sentencing 15,000 protestors to death predictably spread like wildfire across various publications and social media outlets. Posts from celebrities, politicians, publications, and other users condemning the action have been seen by millions. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted about it, before deleting it, furthering the spread of misinformation.
The truth is that Iran has not sentenced 15,000 protesters to death. The claim stems from a call by 227 of the country’s 290 members of parliament for tougher and quicker sentences for protesters, which in Iran could potentially include, the death penalty. Iranian lawmakers did not pass a bill that allows for the execution of protesters, because capital punishment is already enshrined in Iranian law and has been used against dissidents in the past.
The reality is that Iran’s parliament does not issue legal sentences, the judiciary does. Lawmakers, however, issue calls to action or write letters for the government, which are not implemented into law or policy. Additionally, there are not 15,000 in prison from this uprising. 15,000 is the total number of Iranian people arrested over almost two months. Yes, they can be indicted. Yes, they can potentially receive the death penalty. Some already have, including at least three within the past week.
According to Amnesty International, Iran’s authorities are seeking the death penalty for at least 21 people in an attempt to intimidate those participating in the protests and uprising that’s occurring in Iran since September and to deter others from joining the movement.
Accidents happen. It was corrected, right? No harm no foul? While it was eventually corrected, evil-spirited misinformation like this simply gives Iran’s government fuel to manipulate the citizens. As a foreign correspondent familiar with Iran, Sune Rasmussen points out on Twitter, “The Islamic Republic seeks to gain support from the Iranian population by claiming to be a victim of Western propaganda and lies. Nothing helps this claim more than an unfounded allegation by a Western head of state that is so easily dismissed.”
Westerners must be more careful in their support of those in turmoil in the middle-east. Basic levels of care and fact-checking could have prevented this misinformation from spreading and prevented The Islamic Republic from receiving more ammunition for its propaganda. In times as tumultuous and challenging as those that many Iranians face, Western due diligence and media responsibility are essential.