Iranian blogger dies in jail – negligence?

Mirsayafi, a blogger sentenced to two years in prison for denouncing the Islamic government in Iran, died March 18 in jail. Mirsayafi says that his personal blog was mostly cultural, not political, with only two or three satirical articles.

The interesting part about this story’s coverage is that it’s very difficult to figure out how Mirsayafi died. I found two sources, a NYTimes Lede blog entry, and an article in the Iranian.com, a “community site for the Iranian diaspora — the Iranian expatriates who care about their identity, culture, music, history, politics, literature and each other, as well as friends and family living in Iran.”

While neither of the two sources knew themselves how M had died, the wording in the NYTimes was far more ambiguous about M’s death and seemed to blame the Iranian prison system. It took me a couple of minutes of comparing between the two articles to figure out what had happened. Unlike the NYTimes, the Iranian.com explicitly said that M had died from an overdose, the result of  the prison officials’ neglect to provide him with prompt medical service, all in the general context of Iranian’s autocratic system. The Iranian.com’s article did this by including a large quote from the spokesperson of the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran:

“From the Judge who sentenced Mirsayafi solely for his peaceful opinions, to the prison medical staff who ignored his critical condition, a host of judiciary and prison officials are responsible for his death. Mirsayafi’s death is an indication of the cruelty of Iranian Intelligence and security agencies abusing the courts with the cooperation of the Judiciary,” Ghaemi said.”

Comments:

The NYTimes article was much more interested in trying to figure out where to place blame, an observation that can be made by comparing the different International Campaign in Iran’s quote the NYTimes blogger chose to include:

In an interview with the Campaign on 16 December 2008, Mirsayafi said his blog was completely private and was read only by a few of his friends. He also said that expert testimony by an Intelligence Ministry official during his trial emphasized this point and that he should not receive such a heavy sentence.

This quote focuses attention on the blogger’s role as a harmless victim instead of addressing the larger humanitarian and rights problems in Iran.

Speculation:

While it’s possible that the NYTimes blog entry did not mean to be obscure about M’s death, it left me wondering about the mechanics of M’s death. The Iranian.com’s article left me thinking about freedom of speech in an autocratic country like Iran. It seems to me that the latter is more useful when it comes to using media to promote democracy and human rights. In that sense, the NYTimes made M’s story more of a human-interest or murder story than the Iranian.com did

Sources
http://www.iranian.com/main/2009/mar/omidreza-mirsayafi

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/03/19/iranian-blogger-dies-in-prison/?scp=3&sq=blogger&st=cse

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