Syria: reform must be discussed around large tables
The state-run Syrian Arab News Agency seems to have adopted a formula for reporting on the government's efforts to implement reforms through "national dialogue" meetings across the country--a process activists have dismissed as hollow so long as Syrian security forces continue to crack down on protesters. First, participants must sit at room-sized tables, as depicted in the two pictures below that ran with recent articles (the alternative is for people to be seated in an auditorium with a panel on a dais):
The second rule is that the reports must be vague. "The sessions aim to discuss various visions to set up a common platform for the work during the forthcoming stage based on enhancing the independence of the national decision, maintaining the national sovereignty and respecting the freedom of the citizen and law sovereignty," an article reads today.
The articles should also avoid directly criticizing the authorities (one participant is quoted as saying that the current regime is responsible for zero percent of the uprising since "acts of the previous governments are responsible for 50% of the crisis, while the other half is an external conspiracy) and should chronicle the further study that will accompany proposed reforms. Participants in Aleppo "proposed forming a committee to follow up on the outcomes of these dialogue sessions," SANA reports.
Iran somehow blames American hiker reports on media
In an interview with NBC News on Tuesday, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad announced that Iran would be releasing two long-detained American hikers imminently on humanitarian grounds, prompting foreign media and Iranian state-run news outlets like Press TV and the Mehr News Agency (MNA) to report the news. Now, as Iranian judiciary official backpedal on the statement, Press TV and MNA find themselves in a tough spot. Dare they blame the premature news that they themselves reported on the source: Ahmadinejad? Of course not. Instead, in an article entitled "Iran Denies Release of US Nationals" Press TV points a finger at unreliable "media reports," even while it admits that Ahmadinejad "stated in an interview with NBC news channel that two US nationals will be released in a couple of days as a humanitarian gesture."
Iran's state-run media may not be censuring Ahmadinejad, but some of his fellow politicians are. A parliamentarian named Parviz Sorouri tells MNA that Ahmadinejad interfered in the affairs of other branches of government. "According to the Constitution, the executive branch of government has no right to make decision about the people charged with espionage," he says.
Myanmar may not have democracy, but it has a day to celebrate it
One tactic of authoritarian regimes is to establish a day to celebrate something that may or may not actually be present in the country. The New Light of Myanmar announced this week that the country will celebrate its first ever International Day of Democracy 2011 tomorrow. The aim of the event, the state-run news outlet explains, is to bolster the "firmly flourishing democratization process and rights in conformity with the actual progress of the nation so as to serve the interests of the State and the entire people."