Iran falls for false report on Israeli athlete
In bid to tie opposition with enemies of state, official Iranian media fail to check facts, publish news item on fabricated story that Israeli silver medalist Yael Arad gave her medal to wife of opposition leader Mousavi as sign of appreciation for struggle. Bloggers pick up on mistake, fictitious article removed
Iran's official media outlets published a fabricated item on Sunday claiming that Israeli Olympic medalist Yael Arad decided to give her silver medal to the wife of opposition reformist Mir Hossein Mousavi in order to show her appreciation of her struggle against the regime.
A Ynet investigation revealed that the source of the item was an Iranian blogger who decided to joke around a bit by inventing an interview that Arad, who was called Hava Amit in the story, supposedly gave to Haaretz newspaper.
In the fictitious interview, the Israeli athlete said that she decided to give the silver medal she won in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona to Mousavi's wife, Zahra Rahnavard, "out of respect for her fight for freedom."
"Hava Amit" explained that "Rahnavard's interview to the BBC in Persian following the elections increased my desire to support the freedom movement in Iran." A picture of Arad and a picture of Rahnavard figured prominently alongside the story laid out in the blog.
The news item subsequently picked up and published by Iran's official news agency, IRNA, gained momentum and was then launched on a number of other pro-regime websites. The title of the article was "Presenting the Israeli runner's silver medal to Zahra Rahnavard."
Rahnavard assisted Mousavi in his elections campaign, after which she became one of the more prominent figures in the reformist movement and evoked the rage of the conservatives.
Item removed after a few hours
The Iranian opposition believes that the regime's effort to paint the opposition as an agent of Israel and the US led Iran's official media to forget to check the source of the article and its authenticity.
For instance, Arad was awarded the silver medal judo at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, and not in sprinting. No Israeli runner has ever won a medal at the Olympics.
One of the Iranian bloggers who came across the peculiar article tried to find the original item in the Israeli press: "At first I thought they censored the newspaper's site. But after a search I did, I saw that it isn't on the list of censored sites."
According to the said blogger, "I searched a Hebrew site for Rahnavard and couldn't find anything."
Since the country's disputed elections, blogs in Iran have become important sources of information because the regime forbade state media from reporting on protests raging in the streets.
When the Iranian news rooms understood that the article was a fake, they removed it from a number of sites within just hours.
The Iranian opposition accused IRNA, and well as quasi-official news agency Fars of fabricating other articles as well about Iranian opposition leaders, including Mehdi Karroubi and Mohammad Khatami. Recently, they have even made a new nickname for Fars, preferring to call it "false" news.