JOHN HOCKENBERRY: Good morning, everyone. I'm John Hockenberry. We begin with the events unfolding in Iran. The latest, this morning? Iran's top electoral body said today it found "no major fraud" and will not annul the results of the June 12th election, closing the door to a do-over sought by angry opposition supporters alleging systematic vote rigging. Since the vote, Iranian government officials have repeatedly suggested that a re-vote is extremely unlikely. However, Tuesday's announcement by Iran's top electoral body, the Guardian Council, was the clearest sign yet in a ruling about a do-over. Meanwhile, the U.S. Administration, and those of you learning about this from our radio program, or anywhere else, are having to cope with a frustrating lack of reliable information. Continuing now our discussion about the many voices, and the many sort of slants and emphases in this story, Kouross Esmaeli, Iranian-American independent journalist and filmmaker, has worked for Al Jazeera English, for about four years, for over four years, good morning.
KOUROSS ESMAELI: Good morning.
JH: Once again. And we want to introduce Ramin Talaie, a freelance photojournalist who works for The New York Times and Bloomberg, who's just arrived back in the U.S. from Tehran on Sunday from your direct coverage on the streets. Good morning.
RAMIN TALAIE: Good morning.
JH: So, first of all, I want to play two things for both of you. And let's get a sense of where the emphasis lies depending on where you're listening to these stories coming out of Iran. If you were sitting in your living room, say, anywhere in the United States, and turned on NBC last night, you would have heard Brian Williams say this:
NBC AUDIO CLIP: On our broadcast tonight: show of force. Security forces crush protestors in the streets of Tehran as a young woman's death now becomes a powerful symbol.
JH: Of course, a reference there by Brian Williams, the nightly news anchor, to Neda, the footage of a woman who gravely injured in protests in Iran. He describes her death, or her injury, as a powerful symbol. But, this is what you would have heard at about the same time, if you were listening to Al Jazeera English.
AL JAZEERA ENGLISH AUDIO CLIP: Hello, I'm Shihab Rattansi, in Washington. Here are the main stories brought to you by Al Jazeera. Iran's Revolutionary Guard is threatening to crush any further protests that are deemed illegal in the country. Monday saw a resumption of large demonstrations in Tehran. Witnesses say they heard gunshots, and that some were killed. Al Jazeera cannot verify any of those claims.
JH: OK. Two very different beginnings of a broadcast. First of all, Kouross, what do you make of the difference there.
KE: I think the American media has taken a huge step in the past week, actually. They started off reporting on Iran very much from a very confused stand-point of demonstrators fighting against a regime. And by now, I think, from what I hear, more and more, people are asking, well, actually, 'What are the demands? Let's get an understanding of what the actual demands of the people are.' Rather than presuming, that these are democratic fighting, or freedom-fighting people who are violently fighting against an oppressive regime.
JH: So, less a 'search for powerful symbols,' as Brian Williams says, and more a 'so, what's the procedure here, what are the demands, and how's the outcome going to be set?' If I was listening outside of the United States, what kinds of reporting on the procedures in Iran would I be likely to hear?
KE: You mean in the West, you mean?
JH: Yeh. I mean outside, outside of the West.
KE: Outside of the West.
KE: The procedures ... There is a little bit more of a criminology happening in the Arab-Muslim world about Iran, than it is in the West because people understand some of the power struggles better over there, and there is a lot of debate about which leader right now is fighting which leader. What are the basic divisions amongst the various heads of various institutions in Iran? So, you hear a lot more of that in the Muslim-Arab media than in the West.
JH: So, let's take it a part. Is Ayatollah Khamenei presiding over a divided clergy in Iran? And, is the outcome of that likely to affect his future as Supreme Leader?
KE: It is very likely that the power of the Supreme Leader is going to be changing in the next few years. We don't know. It could become more and more strong, and more and more, the power could rise to the top a lot more. Or, as a step towards reform, it could actually dissipate a lot more. This happened on Al Arabia, which is a Saudi-owned news agency ...
JH: Right ...
KE: They had a couple of pieces in which they basically suggested that the power structure on top of Iran is falling apart. That Khamenei, that, it's becoming a Khamenei versus Rafsanjani fight, and they're both trying to undermine each other and they're both trying to come out on top, and one is not. And that's a possibility, but that was a very big emphasis that Al Arabiya had, and it caused Al Arabiya offices, I think, to be closed in Tehran as a result.
JH: Interesting. And, of course, Rafsanjani, former president of Iran, and very much in the sort of fight here, with the clergy in Iran. Ramin, from the streets, as a photographer and, of course, reporting for western media, are you seeing things that your editors back in the West have very little interest in? And how do you assess what Kouross is saying, in terms of the people's perception of whether, what Ayatollah is up and what Ayatollah is down, and the disputes behind the scene, the criminology he talked about?
RT: Right. It's kind of hard to assess all that. I mean people on the streets don't really get to see, you know, NBC News, and when you're working there, you don't get to see or hear what people are saying. You're seeing one side of the conflict, or the issue. And, it's hard to make all those political judgments about what's happening out there. But, I mean, and I think that the main difference in terms of the reporting is East versus West. Al Jazeera's, you know audience, is mainly Muslim, Eastern. And, you know, NBC, the main US broadcast service, so, you know, I think that's one of the main issues.
JH: Do you have a sense from the streets, what the demands of the people are, or is it more a cat-and-mouse game between tear gas and security forces and crowds of young people?
RT: It's hard, as an independent photographer and somebody who tries to, like, be neutral at all times ... it's, my opinion is that they were just frustrated at the outcome. You know, a huge number of people participated. You know, what was it, 85 percent? And, nobody expected that kind of numbers to come out the next day, either way, for pro-Moussavi, or pro-Ahmadinejad. So, the reaction was just sort of, nobody knew what was going to happen. I mean every day, was like, 'Now what?' And, I think that was the thing, I mean, sort of evolving, too, like everyday was like, 'So, what are we going to do, what are we going to see today?' And then the next day, it was like the same thing, and the same thing every day, and you know, we are here today, and it's like again, what's going to happen tomorrow?
JH: Again, what's going to happen today? Exactly.
JH: Would you describe this as a deep grassroots uprising, or more of a sense of a very short-lived disgruntlement over some frustrations in the Iranian economy, and maybe an inability to express oneself politically?
RT: I think this is going to affect the Iranians in all levels, for a long time. I don't think this is short-term. And I don't think this is grassroots. I think this is, I mean it's not organized, let's just put it that way. So, grassroots, maybe, but definitely not organized in a sense of how the revolution came about. The revolution was very organized by various groups, and I don't think these are the same kind of people out there. I think there is a sense of frustration, and that's what these people are trying to convey.
JH: Well, we've been asking our listeners all morning, the story of citizen journalists is all over the broadcast media, with Twitter and all this amateur media which is everywhere, and photographs that I presume compete with you, Ramin.
JH: So, we're asking people to be citizen editors: what do they think the headline ought to be? Where do they think the emphasis should be placed on observing the story? What do you think the headline should be, Ramin? And then I'll ask you, Kouross.
RT: I don't know. I think the headline should be really what comes out of the streets. I mean, that's where things are happening.
JH: So, the demonstrations are the headline in your view?
RT: Yeh. And also like we talked about, how is this going to affect Iran long-term? I don't think this is a short-term issue.
JH: Kouross Esmaeli, what do you think the headline should be for people who really want to know what's going on? And feel free to express some criminology here. I was fascinated by that.
KE: I think, well, what is happening in Iran today, from what I understand from last night to today, is that the demonstrations have been getting smaller, so the rallies are dying down; people are going back home more and more. And the establishment, the political establishment, is trying to figure out how to deal with this issue. There were some incredible interviews on Iranian television. So, there's big steps in actually opening up the discussion about the elections.
JH: On Iranian television.
KE: Oh, absolutely.
JH: Will Ahmadinejad address the nation?
KE: He has not yet. But the head of Parliament gave a very important interview on state television two days ago, in which he criticized the Guardian Council, for taking sides, in support of Ahmadinejad. He openly criticized the Guardian Council.
JH: What about Khamenei? You would think a supreme leader would have a few words to say to the people at a time like this.
KE: Well, he said what he had to say on Friday. And what he said was, 'Go home, the elections stand,' caused the huge riots and the deaths on Saturday.
JH: Wow, so the next step is really important.
KE: But he's being criticized, without being named, he's being criticized by many members of the Iranian elite.
JH: Well, Kouross Esmaeli, Iranian-American independent journalist, filmmaker, worked for Al Jazeera English for over four years, you will be speaking at a teach-in at New York University's Cantor Film Center tonight, called, "What You Need To Know." The event begins at 6:30 PM here in New York and will be broadcast live on the web. You can go to ameja.org to find out more. And Ramin Talaie, thanks so much for being here.
RT: Thank you.