If we paid attention to the terminology used by the mass media to refer to certain issues, perhaps we would learn more than a few lessons about the interests behind those media and the subterfuges they use to present the news ‘embellished’ with certain attributes.
A good example of this is the name that virtually all conventional media in Spain associate with officials of certain countries –but not with others.
When referring to Iran’s highest authorities, the term regularly used is ‘regime’, whereas in the case of Afghanistan the term of choice is ‘government’.
It is not our purpose here to analyze Iran’s political system in depth, a country in which Islamic law plays an important role in the institutional order. As we all know, Iranians celebrate elections and there is more than one political party, contrary to other totalitarian states whose governments could properly and quite clearly be termed ‘regimes’. We lack enough information to judge the extent to which the electoral game is fairly played in Iran. There are differing opinions both in and out of the country. Only if evidence beyond any doubt showed that the country is being despotically ruled by a minority with no possible chance for alternating of power could we more or less properly use the word ‘regime’. Given that what exists in the worst of cases in Iran are only suspicions of vote rigging in a specific election process, we consider the use of this term by these media to be abusive and biased.
Now let’s take a look at the case of Afghanistan, a country ruled by a man brought in by the occupying powers, backed by cruel racketeering tribal chiefs called ‘warlords’ and whose power has been legitimated by virtually phantom elections characterized by overwhelming abstentionism and an electoral fraud beyond any doubt, a situation acknowledged even by the very people who placed him in the presidential chair. Mr. Karzai did not need a re-run of the fraudulent elections to remain in office. His only opponent withdrew as a form of protest in the face of a more than likely repeat of the irregularities seen in the first round and the absolute lack of guarantees that it would not happen again. Western media completely ignored this act of protest demanding electoral fair play and publicly consecrated the victory of Karzai, a person who, according to the unanimous view of the media, now rules not a ‘regime’ –which would be the more proper term– but rather a ‘government’.
There are more examples though. Certain Spanish media use the term ‘regime’ when referring to Venezuela, a country where Hugo Chávez overwhelmingly wins time and again in elections whose fairness has been acknowledged even by his most right-wing and inflammatory opposition. Imagine what the media would say if Venezuela experienced such a blatant fraud as Afghanistan’s and the only opponent withdrew from a possible re-run of the elections for lack of democratic guarantees.
Interestingly enough, officials in countries with clear dictatorships or semi-feudal absolutist monarchies, such as Morocco, Saudi Arabia and others, are called ‘governments’.
As we can see, for the mass media, being a ‘regime’ (a term conveying a charge of political illegitimacy) versus being a ‘government’ has not so much to do with the political and legal systems existing in a country but with the fact that the state in question is more or less willing to serve the political and economic interests of the Western powers.
Let’s take a look at some examples from both ‘progressive’ and conservative newspapers in Spain:
El País: El régimen iraní responsabiliza a los "enemigos extranjeros" de las protestas
ABC: El régimen iraní lanza a sus seguidores a la calle al grito de «¡Muerte a Musavi!»
Público: Miles de personas apoyan al régimen iraní y piden castigo para los opositores
El Mundo: Miles de opositores desafían al régimen iraní en Teherán
El País: El Gobierno afgano crea una unidad de alto nivel para combatir la corrupción
Público: El Gobierno afgano critica a la ONU y pide que se respete su soberanía nacional
ABC: Un líder talibán y fuentes del gobierno afgano confirman los sobornos italianos
El Mundo: El Gobierno afgano y la OTAN consideran un ’éxito’ las elecciones
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Ana Atienza and David Brookbank are members of Tlaxcala, the international network of translators for linguistic diversity. This translation may be reprinted as long as the content remains unaltered, and the source, author, translator and reviser are cited.
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