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Sehaty Foreign Exchange


June 15, 2000

Immediate public apology

Letter to CBS television's "60 Minutes" producer:

Dear Mr. Hewitt,

I am writing this letter to protest the biased and inaccurate reporting concerning of an individual (an alleged Iranian spy) who was interviewed on a recent "60 Minutes" program without a background check ["Iran Defector Talks To 60 Minutes"]. Professional journalists like you are supposed to maintain integrity in their jobs and be independent and responsible. Accuracy in reporting is a critical element in responsible reporting.

CIA and FBI officials investigated that alleged Iranian spy ["Iranian Defector Called an Impostor "]. These agencies reported that he is an "imposter" who was trying to obtain a U.S. visa by attributing responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing and the Khobar Towers incident to Iran. However, the Saudi Arabian government has found no evidence of external involvement in the case of Khobar Towers, and the Lockerbie bombing is being investigated in the international courts in the Netherlands. It seems that when those who pay for the advertisements or control the political system also control the mass media; democracy loses its value and importance.

The program that you aired was defamatory to many individuals who are native Iranians like me. The practice of defaming Iranians in general, and Iranian Americans in particular, must stop. We have kept quiet for more than 20 years while the mass media have bashed us to no limit. Teaching in a business school at the university level, I truly understand the competitive nature of business. However, your program must stop using inaccurate information to gain a few more ratings points. In the short run, you will gain some viewers; in the long run, you will lose credibility.

In this case, the damage is already done. The effect of this program on the minds of many viewers will be permanent. Sensational and biased journalism must stop. Your program can create animosity toward Iranians in school, at work, and elsewhere in everyday life. Many Americans have very limited knowledge about world politics and foreign countries. These naïve individuals believe literally everything they watch on TV. So, by making statements that cannot be backed up, you are promoting hatred toward Iranians.

As an Iranian, I request an immediate public apology. It is only ethically and legally warranted to provide equal airtime for positive Iran-related news. I do not mind interviewing a representative sample of Iranians and reporting the news honestly. I must add that every country has its own unique problems. Iranians must not be singled out for negative portrayal. Let us use international law to deal with similar issues. I hope your producers will replace biased journalism with something that at least resembles the truth. Thank you.


Mohammad Ala, Ph.D.
Professor of Management
Director of Productivity Center
California State University, Los Angeles


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