By Golnaz Esfandiari, RFE/RL
NBC reporter Ann Curry interviews President Mahmud Ahmadinejad
Iranian President Mahmud Ahmadinejad prays every morning at 5 a.m., then goes jogging with his bodyguards "at times seemingly 'Rocky'-style."
He then heads to the gym. The early bird Iranian president works out for 30 minutes every day before reaching his “spacious but simple office” before 7 a.m.
What follows in his daily schedule includes reading the newspapers, meetings, talking with and caring for poor people, and more prayers.
Ahmadinejad is a pious superman who doesn’t rest; his aides claim he sleeps only three hours per night.
His days "often stretch to 2 a.m." and "even during his flights [to one of Iran’s provinces] he's meeting with ministers."
These are not excerpts from a report issued by the president's own office, nor from a show that could have been aired on state television a while ago when Ahmadinejad was still the golden boy of the Islamic republic. (The president has become isolated in recent months as the result of a power struggle with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.)
The flattering report, described as the "first-ever behind-the-scenes access" into the Iranian president’s daily schedule, was aired on the U.S. television network NBC. The "exclusive" report, which reveals unimportant details about Ahmadinejad's life (including the fact that he works with his shoes off but his reading glasses on) is a great piece of propaganda for Ahmadinejad, who heads to New York next week to attend the UN General Assembly.
The positive report has been also noticed in Tehran, including by Ayandehnews, which referred to it as NBC’s "propaganda piece" about Ahmadinejad.
Ahmadinejad working out
The report portrays Ahmadinejad as a hard-working, compassionate, and religious president who leads a very simple life and cares deeply about his people. Ahmadinejad's PR team couldn’t have done it better.
(Watch the NBC report and then read this blog by one of Ahmadinejad's supporters, posted on Persian Letters earlier this year as an example of online propaganda for the Iranian president.)
It's precisely the image Ahmadinejad is trying to convey while covering up the facts that, under his presidency, Iran has become a much more closed society, human rights abuses have increased, and many have been jailed for protesting against his reelection.
The NBC report mentions Iran's rising inflation and the poor people who swarmed the president during a visit to a remote province while pleading for food and other necessities. But what it doesn't say is that many economists believe Ahmadinejad’s policies and his mismanagement of the economy are largely to blame.
Instead of challenging the Iranian president, the NBC reporter, Ann Curry, asks him easy questions that are quite usual even on Iran’s state media.
Curry: "Mr. President, why have you made this point to come to one of the poorest parts of Iran to highlight the art and the crafts?"
Ahmadinejad (through a translator): "I want to show that we all have some common humanity, human values."
NBC fails to ask why a president who is so committed to human values didn’t speak up against the documented torture and rape of young people who were jailed for peacefully protesting his reelection.
The NBC reporter also doesn't ask the Iranian president whether, in his daily reading, he looks at the countless letters from political prisoners and their families detailing the horrors they have to endure in prison.
Another question NBC could have asked Ahmadinejad is what his plans are, if any, to help the poor people who were begging him for help.
During NBC's time with Ahmadinejad, he announced that the two U.S. citizens who have been jailed in Iran on espionage charges will be released "in a couple of days."
With the NBC report and his promise to grant the hikers a "unilateral pardon," Ahmadinejad is off to a good start in what appears to be a charm offensive ahead of his New York trip.
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