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Inaccurate translations in media increase tensions between Iran and USA

Shoddy translation in the Western media is increasing nuclear tensions–again, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, Ariane Tabatabai, 25 Aug 17,  “…….Inaccurate translations, imprecise analyses, and poor reporting have long plagued discussion of Iranian nuclear affairs in Western, English-language media. Now, though, this kind of irresponsibility is particularly alarming, because the nuclear agreement signed in 2015 between Iran and six world powers is in a fragile state. The agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, curbs Iranian nuclear activities in exchange for sanctions relief, and is critical to advancing the US objective of keeping Tehran away from the Bomb without resorting to military force. US President Donald Trump has gone from pledging to dismantle the deal to trying to kill it by a thousand cuts. Meanwhile, various American interest groups are jumping in to advocate for their own preferred Iran policy options, including leaving the JCPOA and pursuing regime change. All this makes it even more critical than before for journalists and experts to get the facts right.

In foreign policy reporting, especially during periods of heightened tension and escalation, translations are a particularly challenging part of the journalist’s job. Mistranslations and inaccurate reporting can be consequential, as even the slightest mistakes can change meaning and generate crises……
the bottom line of all statements coming out of Tehran about the nuclear deal is that the country is committed to preserving it. This is currently the consensus within the regime; whether everyone likes it or not, the JCPOA is the law of the land. Yet given US threats to renege on the deal, Rouhani also has to hedge. So he is laying out his country’s options and the possible outcomes should America withdraw from the process. It is in this area that many reporters have translated his statements inaccurately.
For example, on August 15, Reuters inaccurately reported that Rouhani said his country “could abandon its nuclear agreement with world powers ‘within hours’ if the United States imposes any more sanctions.” The article went on to misquote Rouhani as saying: “If America wants to go back to the experience (of imposing sanctions), Iran would certainly return in a short time—not a week or a month but within hours—to conditions more advanced than before the start of negotiations.” In fact, what Rouhani said was: “New US officials should know that the failed experience of sanctions and coercion brought their previous governments to the negotiating table. And if they want to return to that experience, surely, in a short amount of time, not in a period of weeks and months, but hours and days, we will return to a much more advanced situation than that of the beginning of the talks.” In other words, Rouhani wasn’t threatening to leave the JCPOA if the United States imposed more sanctions on it—as the article’s title suggested and its content indicated—but to resume elements of its program if Washingtondecided to leave the JCPOA. At the same time, Rouhani reiterated that his country’s preferred course of action was to preserve the deal—but he wanted the United States to know that Iran, too, had options……
These inaccuracies would be problematic under normal circumstances, but they are particularly irresponsible at a time of heightened tensions, during which misperceptions could quickly torpedo the nuclear deal and put the United States and Iran on a collision course. Right now, the Trump administration is reviewing its policy on the JCPOA, Iranian support for the deal is diminishing, and hawks on both sides see this fragile state of affairs as an opportune moment to kill it off completely. If journalists are to hold those in power accountable, they must be held accountable themselves.

August 26, 2017 - Posted by | Iran, media, USA

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