Iran’s state-owned Fars News Agency has “republished” an article taken from Foreign Policy, a U.S.-based magazine, but the agency did so in its own way, changing the title, removing words and adding others to turn the article into a propaganda piece in favor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The article, entitled Questioning Credibility, written by Shibley Telhami, analyses the argument of preserving U.S. credibility through military action.
Fars News Agency changed to the title of the article to: Questioning U.S. Credibility with Syria.
In the second paragraph of his article, Telhami write:
“Despite the talk of not being taken seriously, America remains a feared superpower in the Middle East, and Washington's hand is seen in almost everything big and small.”
The Fars News Agency’s version states:
“In addition of the talk of not being taken seriously, America remains a hated country in the Middle East, for people in the region think that Washington's hand can be seen in almost everything big and small.”
The expression of “feared superpower” was changed to “hated superpower.”
In the following paragraph where Telhami discusses “regional attitudes toward chemical weapons” the Iranian news agency added the word “alleged” before “chemical weapons” in line with the official government position.
As the writer moves on to discuss the humanitarian aspect of the Syrian civil war, he writes:
“The humanitarian concern arose at the outset of the Syrian uprisings, as Bashar al-Assad used the might of his army to brutally attack civilians. CW use was another example of brutality, but not the main force behind regional perceptions.”
Apparently uncomfortable with the word “uprising,” Fars changed it into “crisis” and attributed the killing of civilians to “terrorists” not to President Bashar al-Assad, as the original article states.
The version of Fars for that part in the article is:
“The humanitarian concern arose at the outset of the Syrian crisis, as terrorists used army to brutally attack civilians. CW use by extremists was another example of brutality, but not the main force behind regional perceptions.”
The distortion of the Foreign Policy article became even more apparent when the writer discussing Iran’s nuclear program.
Where Telhami writes:
“[D]espite popular unease with Iran and outright animosity toward Tehran by some rulers, the majority of Arabs have consistently opposed international pressure to curtail Iran's nuclear program. Only a minority has said that a nuclear Iran would be bad for the region.”
Fars News Agency opted for a version that states:
“[D]espite unease with Iran’s peaceful nuclear program and outright animosity toward Tehran by some rulers, the majority of Arabs have consistently opposed international pressure to curtail Iran's nuclear program, even though Iran always has said that it sees no need to nuclear bomb.”
Commenting on the distortion of its article, Foreign Policy wrote in an article in response:
“Call it plagiarism by find-and-replace, or the Iranian state media’s house style. And perhaps we shouldn’t be all that surprised, given that we’re talking about a news agency that fell for an Onion story [a satirical news website] about rural white American voters preferring former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Barack Obama, and doctored a photo of Michelle Obama to cover up her shoulders.”