Middle East

We wondered how this story is playing in the Iranian news media. Azadeh Moaveni, reports from Tehran for Time magazine. She joins us now by phone. Welcome to the program once again.

Ms. AZADEH MOAVENI (Reporter, Time Magazine): Thank you.

SIEGEL: And I gather that as for newspapers in Iran, they are not covering it much because most of them aren't even publishing.

Ms. MOAVENI: Yes. Most newspapers take a two-week holiday for Persian New Year. And so the mainstream newspapers aren't publishing. There is just one that is out. And so really people are getting a small dose of news in general, and an even smaller dose of about this particular scandal that as it is referred to and what is being printed.

SIEGEL: You're saying they're getting a small dose but what about on television? Are there news broadcasts and is it playing very high there? Ms. MOAVENI: The first few evenings it was not the top story. It came fifth or sixth in the nightly news broadcast, and it was very clear that this was something that was being played down by the official media, although yesterday and today it's getting higher billing. There was coverage of people at Friday prayer chanting death to America. It seems very clear that there's a more coherent sort of message coming out of the regime in the last couple of days, and that's being picked up by the television and the radio news.

SIEGEL: Are they chanting death to America? Haven't they been chanting death to Britain in this case because of the Royal Navy?

Ms. MOAVENI: They're chanting both. It's uncommon for them to chant death to Britain. It's usually death to America, but death to Britain. And also at a soccer game today, this is extremely uncommon, but there was radio coverage and also news Web site reporting that thousands of soccer fans chanted death to the U.K. at a soccer match.

SIEGEL: Does this have the feel to you of a - you say they call it a scandal in Iran. Does it seem to have legs? I mean, does it relate to the concerns that you hear from people every day and their fears in Iran?

Ms. MOAVENI: Well, I think it's important to look at this, and I think this is how people are looking at it, in the context of Western pressure over Iran's nuclear program. Because I think by this point Iranians are feeling like the West, particularly the U.S. and Britain, sort of have it out for Iran. And so that kind of skepticism, this sort of feeling of being under attack unfairly by these two Western countries is a kind of nationalist spirit people are bringing to this issue.

And so I think what it's really doing is just eliciting that kind of reaction for people, being viewed as, you know, another Western attempt to put pressure on Iran for something that isn't a reasonable reaction on Iran's part.

SIEGEL: Now, I want to run past you a version of the official Iranian line that I've heard, and I just want to see if it checks out with you. And that is that some Iranians say the British Navy violated Iranian waters a couple of years ago. The sailors in that case were released after three days, but they say the Brits kept on violating Iranian waters so in part to assuage Iranian public opinion, which was offended by all this. Tehran is being a lot tougher this time. Does any of that ring true to you?

Ms. MOAVENI: To me, it sounds rather far-fetched that most Iranians are even aware of or pay much attention to whether or not routinely territorial waters in the gulf are being observed by the various navies that are present in those waters. So no, I would say ordinary people are not concerned. And if this is being sort of packaged that way by the official media right now, that's certainly a sign that they're trying to present this as nationalist issue that Iranians should start getting outraged about rather than bringing their outrage to the story.

SIEGEL: Well, thanks for talking with us about it.

Ms. MOAVENI: My pleasure.

SIEGEL: That's Azadeh Moaveni, who reports from Tehran, the Iranian capital, for Time magazine.

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