Relations between Egypt and Iran could hardly get colder — but the mullahcracy doesn’t mind trying. Cairo lodged a protest this week with Tehran over an advertisement published by the Fars news agency, offering a million dollars to whomever successfully assassinates Hosni Mubarak:
Egypt is demanding Iran bring to justice the authors of an advertisement calling on Iranians to assassinate Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.
The advertisement was published by the Iranian Fars News agency on Sunday by a student group.
The announcement was in Persian and offered a reward of $1 million to whoever would carry out the deed, against the backdrop of Egypt’s refusal to open the Rafah border with Gaza.
Most people consider Fars to be a state media outlet. Egypt pointed that out in their protest, suggesting that the publication of this bounty would be seen as an official act unless steps were taken against the student group that bought the advertisement. The Iranians rebutted that claim, saying that Fars is a private enterprise and that they have no control over its content.
Egypt responded to that argument, with perhaps a bit of a Freudian slip:
As to Teheran’s insistence on disassociating itself with Fars, Al-Fiqqi said, “In a state like Iran it is impossible to talk about news agencies or organizations that are not under state control,” he said.
“This is not Britain or the United States. This is Iran and everything there is planned and organized. If something comes out of Iran, the authorities know about it and can stop it and if there’s incitement, the state is responsible,” he said.
Of course, Al-Fiqqi is correct. And just as certainly, Al-Fiqqi’s description of Iran also applies to Egypt. He speaks from experience, as the media are tightly controlled in his country, as well as most of the Arab states in the region, with the notable exceptions of Iraq and Lebanon.
The two counterexamples Al-Fiqqi uses are also telling. First, he acknowledges the freedom of speech that exists in America and the UK and that doesn’t exist in Iran. However, an advertisement like that would never have appeared in an American or British newspaper, not because our governments censor it, but because our societies reject terrorism and assassinations so totally that no editor would ever countenance such an advertisement.
What does it say about the mullahcracy that their primary news agency, even if not controlled directly by the state (which it is), did countenance such an advertisement?