When the Iranian media misquoted President Hassan Rouhani’s comments on Israel on Friday, Aug. 2 at Iran’s International Quds Day rallies, it sparked a major controversy in international media and received strong condemnation from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Although certain news agencies in Iran such as Fars News, which is close to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, have been responsible for reporting incorrect news in the past, Mehr News, which is believed to be the first to incorrectly report Rouhani’s statements, has typically been a reliable source of news.
Press TV, which is a government-funded English-language news station, immediately published video of Rouhani’s interview with English subtitles after the controversy broke, revealing that original reports about Rouhani’s comments on Israel were incorrect. Rouhani’s media team was also quick to publish an English-subtitled video of the original statements, sharing it on the president’s various semi-official social-media outlets.
Quoting an anonymous source who was at the scene when Rouhani was interviewed on the streets at the Quds Day rallies, Asre Iran was able to learn how Rouhani’s original statement turned into the misquoted “Israel is a wound on the body of the Islamic world that must be destroyed.” The video interview revealed that Rouhani neither says neither “Israel” nor “destroyed.”
According to the source, “When Hassan Rouhani, who was walking at the rally, came face-to-face with the reporters, Rouhani’s [security] team only allowed a reporter from the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) to interview Rouhani, along with state television and radio. After that, the reporter from IRNA shared the text with the other reporters” who were not allowed to approach Rouhani.
The source continued, “These reporters, trusting what was told to them, published the incorrect text of Rouhani’s statements on Israel, not knowing that parts of these statements were incorrect and distorted.” The IRNA is under the management of the administration.
The source said, “For this is the reason, the published text of Rouhani’s statement at the various news agencies was practically the same, a copy. This issue resulted in other media, both domestic and foreign, in consideration of the numerous quoted sources, to be sure of the statement, that ‘Israel must be destroyed,’ when in reality it was nothing like this.”
The source added that Rouhani’s office pursued the matter and that the investigation led them to the IRNA, saying that “The news agencies have criticized the situation, believing that if Rouhani’s security team and those around him would have allowed the other reporters to interview him, certainly this mistake would not have happened and this controversy would not have entangled an Iranian politician.”
He held the reporters at fault as well, saying, “If the reporters had performed professionally, certainly they should have doubted this segment of Rouhani’s speech, and should not have published this without further clarification.”
Asre Iran wrote, “What is notable in this situation is that of all the news agencies who published the incorrect statements of Rouhani, only the Iranian Students’ News Agency, when making the correction, also published an explanation. But the other media just deleted the incorrect statements without explaining anything to their readers.”