In my Media and Politics in the Middle East and North Africa class, we discussed the various fields of study in the media. As my blog is focusing on gender and sexual minorities in the MENA region, I feel that it would be most fitting to delve into the link between society/challengers and the media. Media coverage and who controls the media varies state by state in the MENA region, some being allowed to be more independent and critical of the government and military, whereas some are not.
In states where the media is more strictly controlled and censored, it may be harder to find communities of sexual minorities to interview, as well as it may be dangerous to publish information that defend gender and sexual minorities if that particular state is a heteronormative patriarchy.
We discussed in class the crossroads that journalists may face when they are deciding how and if they are going to report on a certain topic. For example, there is the instance of Christiane Amanpour, an Iranian-American reporter for CNN, and her attempt to interview the president of Iran. Iran is currently experiencing protests from their citizens after a young woman was arrested by the morality police for not abiding by the state’s hijab rules and died in police custody. President Ebrahim Raisi requested that Amanpour wear a hijab for the interview, and after Amanpour politely refused to wear one several times, the president refused an interview.
This instance demonstrates the struggles that journalists may face when attempting to report on controversial or polarizing topics. Amanpour exercised autonomy over her body, and in a way showed solidarity to the people in Iran protesting the compulsory hijab adornment laws. On the other hand, Amanpour missed out on an opportunity to interview the man behind the country’s law and attempt to critically question him and broadcast this information to a large audience.
Reporting objectively on controversial topics can put investigators and/or their families in danger, yet continuing to spout state-sponsored propaganda only provides one perspective and disadvantages groups who do not benefit from propaganda, or who the propaganda is campaigning against.
How do you report accurately and objectively if there is the threat of imprisonment, physical pain, and even death? What are the benefits and costs? If you are a journalist in a state that is anti-LGBTQ, yet you sympathize with the community, do you highlight the struggles and dangers of being LGBTQ when you may be putting yourself in similar danger that you are reporting on?