Dylann Hanrahan ‘25
I remember watching Christiane Amanpour as a young child thinking maybe that one day I could be as brave or as well-known and respected in the journalism world. I aspired to garner the respect and power she has; I still do. Christiane Amanpour has made it clear throughout her groundbreaking career that she respects and complies with local customs and laws especially while reporting in the Middle East, most notably in her home country of Iran. She has routinely followed policies regarding modesty throughout her illustrious career.
It is essential for me to acknowledge Ms. Amanpour’s historic career, and I would never dare disrespect it; however, I have trouble supporting her latest controversial decision regarding the cancellation of her interview with Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi. Some see Amanpour’s refusal to wear a hijab at Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi’s request as legendary and a powerful stance regarding her position on the latest atrocities in Iran, yet, when I discovered that the interview was cancelled, I was upset and disappointed. I am certain that Amanpour, having been from Iran’s capital of Tehran herself, would have been the perfect guiding light in the recent protests in Iran. Sitting down with and questioning Iran’s President for the first time not on Iranian soil would have been a significantly impactful statement and could have been used as a platform to force Ebrahim Raisi to address the atrocities in his country.
If not the lead anchor at PBS and CNN to push the President of Iran, then who? No one else would have dared. I agree that denying the President’s request for Ms. Amanpour to wear a head scarf sends the message that the Western media and the Western world itself wants—that she does not accept the recent violence; however, with all due respect to my icon, I do not believe her refusal concerns him in the slightest. He and his country suffer no negative feedback from not being interviewed and can maintain their veil of silence.
I do acknowledge that Ms. Amanpour is easily one of, if not the, highest rated Western journalist of our time, and, therefore, I tread lightly. I feel that perhaps a clearer act of defiance would be to use her voice and platform to shine a spotlight on Iran by forcing the President to address the media and thereby answer to all who are watching the violence and oppression in his country. The media and internet in Iran are either shut down or content controlled by the government; therefore, we truly have no idea what is happening, nor do we know how many are dying in the streets of Iran in the days and weeks of protests following the tragic death of Mahsa Amini whilst in morality police custody for, allegedly, improperly wearing a hijab. I agree with Amanpour that the President went beyond customs by requesting that she wear a headscarf while not on Iranian soil. The President’s request was his own attempt to make a statement in light of recent turmoil and upheaval in his country. If Amanpour had obliged, she could have potentially had open dialogue about recent events and pushed Raisi to address the murder of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini. However symbolic Amanpour looked seated across from the President’s empty chair, I feel this attempt at an act of defiance brought even less attention to the issue than the latter. I do wish she secured the interview by feigning obedience and then at the end removed her head covering and made a loud and profound statement by saying “I stand with the women of Iran.” That would have been a shout heard everywhere, especially given Amanpour’s platform.
Is there room for disagreement in journalism anymore? Can we not interview unless in total agreement with our subjects? Should the journalist have appeased her interviewee for the information needed by respecting the sanctity of the Qur’an and Islamic diplomacy for the President? Perhaps—it is important to approach interviews with a certain level of acceptance and awareness of our differences. If journalists continue to decide not to conduct interviews with those they don’t agree with or who has committed crimes against humanity they, of course, do not accept, there will be less interviews conducted. I challenge this notion that asking a journalist to comply with cultural mandates is a hypocrisy and, rather, see it as a journalist’s opportunity to step into real journalism: to determine for themselves how far they will go for the information. A journalist is not there to make a statement but to get the interview, write the story, take the photographs, and tell the world what is happening.