How Tabloids And Celebrities Worked Together To Defend Women’s Rights In Iran

A classic example of how journalism can change the world was provided by one of the defining stories of the year in the case of Mahsa Amini, 22.

At first a small, local story about the cruel death of a young woman who fell foul of Iran’s hijab laws, it then snowballed into an international cry of fury sweeping up in its path Washington, Hollywood and even Hogwarts when JK Rowling retweeted it.

The story was a product of three days of work for an Iranian journalist working for the Vienna-based Newsflash agency, which frequently covers human rights abuses in the region.

Given that the story was sent out on their wire feed in the middle of the funeral to the UK clients, there had been little expectation that it would be used, but in the end, it was picked up by the Sun, Mirror and Telegraph and then worked its way all around the world.

The importance of such stories which were written about an article on Medium cannot be underestimated, especially with the news that the BBC is closing down its Farsi speaking unit to save money.

The Medium article reveals how the story was identified on Instagram by the Newsflash correspondent, who submitted it to a commissioning editor on Wednesday. Unfortunately, it was rejected because there was not enough independent verification, and so she worked on it overnight to get more information and resubmitted it the next day.

Mahsa Amini, 22, poses in an undated photo. The Iranian woman has been declared brain dead after the country’s morality police reportedly beat her into a coma when she was arrested over her hijab.

It was provisionally accepted on Thursday, and then further checks were carried out, and by Friday it was sent on the wire feed when they were confident it was correct.

Newsflash editor Michael Leidig in the Medium article said: “We cover stories like this because they need to be covered, even though we often have little expectation of making much penetration with them. It could have been dismissed as just another brutal beating in a country where state cruelty and violence are par for the course. But on this occasion — even though the funeral of the Queen was filling newspapers from front to back — something special happened and it was widely used.”

Because of the threat to her and her family, the Iranian woman journalist that filed the story is not named.

But she was quoted saying: “Religious belief should be a personal choice as it has been throughout history, including the entire era of Islam. It is unbelievable that it has been turned into a political and security issue to defend that belief.

“Yes, we put this one terrible story on the international agenda, but it was just one of many examples where so many Iranian women, including myself, have suffered. I am glad that finally, people are starting to hear the voices of Iranian women and to see how the world has responded in support of women who are risking their lives for what should be a basic human right.”

This story is far from over, and Newsflash has continued providing the press coverage that gives the oxygen of publicity to the protest.

But the one extreme example shows how important news agencies can be, as they use their right to file directly into the editorial queues of partners alongside staff, journalists and correspondents.

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