Iran’s Fellow Travelers at the New York TimesPosted: December 5, 2015
For $7,000, the newspaper’s journalists will serve as tour guides to the Islamic Republic. (Evin Prison is not on the itinerary.)
James Kirchick writes: On Nov. 23, the New York Times published its latest of more than half-a-dozen articles pleading for the Iranian government to release Jason Rezaian, the Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent who was imprisoned on charges of espionage more than 16 months ago. “Western officials hoped that the nuclear agreement would usher in a new era of broader cooperation with Iran,” the editorial board wrote. “But as they begin taking steps to ease economic sanctions on Iran, as called for in the deal, the treatment of Mr. Rezaian has intensified their concerns about whether Iran can be trusted to fulfill its nuclear commitments.”
The editorial’s most recent admonishment, like those that preceded it, managed to elide some relevant details about the newspaper’s relationship to the subject matter. First, the Times editorial board would clearly count as a member of any group looking forward to “a new era of broader cooperation with Iran.” Second, the Times has done far more than merely “hope” for such cooperation. While the newspaper has been demanding the release of an American journalist — one now facing a prison sentence of indeterminate length — some of its own journalists, under the auspices of their employer, have been engaging in a commercial enterprise that benefits his captors.
“Tales from Persia” is the exotic name the Times has given to the 13-day getaway to Iran it operates. For $7,195 (not including airfare), participants are invited to join columnist Roger Cohen, editorial board member Carol Giacomo (who is leading the trip that is currently ongoing), or Paris correspondent Elaine Sciolino and hear their insights about “the traditions and cultures of a land whose influence has been felt for thousands of years.” The itinerary for the seven upcoming departures promises “beautiful landscapes, arid mountains and rural villages.” Needless to say, Evin Prison, where the Iranian government houses political prisoners and Rezaian continues to languish, is not among the stops, though a visit to the home of the late Ayatollah Khomeini is.
“Tales from Persia” is one of dozens of high-priced excursions put on by “Times Journeys,” a luxury tourism outfit operated by “the business side of the New York Times Company,” Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy told me. Most of these expeditions are to run-of-the-mill tourist destinations like Austria or Venice; a few cover more adventuresome locales such as the Galapagos Islands and Antarctica. All are, in the words of the paper, “inspired by Times content and joined by either a New York Times journalist or Times-selected expert.”
The Times-operated trips to Iran (which began earlier this year) differ in important ways from those taking place in Andalusia, or aboard the Queen Mary ocean liner. First, such voyages to Iran would be impossible absent approval from high-level figures in the host country’s government, who have a political and financial interest in their taking place. Luxury tours of this sort bring much-needed revenue to the country. And since they are operated by America’s newspaper of record, they also provide a stamp of legitimacy to a regime most Americans rightly loathe….(read more)
Source: Foreign Policy