The coverage of the Iran elections in the US media is far from an objective news report and lacks any professional journalistic standards.
There are two types of coverage: news reporting and news analysis, even though in this case they are mixed up the same way that these days in the US media, advertisement is mixed up with news and analysis, and most programs have become "infomercials".
Let's talk about the news.
Although some news media had reporters on the ground, most pictures and quotes used came through YouTube, Twitter and such. These are not professional, substantiated news sources. Anybody, anywhere in the world can write whatever they want and proclaim it to be the truth or the facts. These types of unsubstantiated and subjective "reports" have replaced true professional news reporting. This is a general problem with media today expressed by professional journalists and journalism professors in many discussions. This becomes more of a danger to truth and reality when the topic is about a country far removed from America geographically, culturally, and politically, and where the official language is not English. Many "news" items referred to statements by Iranian officials without any mention of whether the reporter had the original Persian text, and whether there was a reliable and objective English translation available. The only language interpretations I have heard and trust are the ones by UN official interpreters at UN meetings. Although sometimes there may be small errors, they are very small and not consequential. Otherwise, there have to be trustworthy translations. Some of the reporters were bilingual Iranians, but when I listened to the word by word debates in Persian and the Friday prayer speech by Khamenei, the Supreme Leader, I did not hear from those reporters any reference to exact translation of any of the words, nothing in the form "so and so said such and such" with the "such and such" in quotes. Even the "news" consisted of rephrasing of some portion of a long speech, out of context.
One example is when Khamenei said, " . . . if our young didn't have any hope they would not partake in the elections. . . . Faith in the system has been shown by the massive participation. . . . "
Khamenei went on, " . . . whoever has doubts can present proof through legal channels. I will not accept any illegal initiative. . . . If today the laws are broken, no election will be immune in the future. . . . If after every election those who have lost take to the streets and the winner's followers take to the streets [to fight it out], then why did we have elections? . . . People have been killed from the ordinary people and the Basidjis [volunteer reserve army] — who is responsible? . . . Students were beaten up. . . . My heart is hurt to see all this . . . "
It was in this context that he called on the leaders of the opposition to take responsibility for preventing rioting under the cover of marches, and if they are not able to ensure the safety of the people, the police would stop all demonstrations.
In one example in the Washington Post (July 27,2009), the heading says "cleric calls for ruthless punishment of protest leaders" with the word ruthless emphasized. In the article you read that one cleric is asking the Judiciary to "deal ruthlessly with the leaders of agitation which have connection to the US or Israel." This is one cleric's position, not necessarily the position of the leader of the judiciary. And it's not protest leaders in general, but those found to be responsible for the riots and destructions.
Now as to the analysis and editorials and opinion pieces:
All of them come from one point of view. On TV programs, all talking heads are pro-Mousavi and his supporters. Every expatriate Iranian on TV and radio shows is pro-Mousavi. The shows do not invite one person, like me, who says they support Ahmadinejad's policies for Iran. Not only that, but they invite some Iranians to give their views who are not political activists or academicians with knowledge in politics, economics and so on: they invited Iranian expatriate movie stars and such who have been opposed to the Islamic Revolution and the Iranian government for 30 years, similar to the anti-Castro Cubans in Florida. Every academician they talked to had hardline opposition to Ahmadinejad. They did not make an attempt to talk to one person at the polls here who voted for Ahmadinejad and ask her opinion. Whenever analysis and news on an issue is completely one-sided and the voice of the other side is absent, the coverage is suspect.
The lack of objectivity becomes clearer when we see that for many days, news of elections of a relatively small country on the other side of the world becomes the dominant news on most TV, radio, and print media and the pictures of protesters become the cover of every news journal. CNN and Fox news become Iran news with uninterrupted coverage. One will have to ask why? The answer has been blowing in the wind for a long time. The context of this is the US continuous unfounded accusations against Iran. The context also includes the sanctions and boycotts, the inclusion of Iran in the "axis of evil" statement, and the threats of engineering regime change in Iran with or without military attack, with the allocation of budget in the US congress for the specific task of regime change in Iran. All of this because the US unabashedly states that control of Iran is in the national interest of the US.
Now let's turn to the specific issue of treatment of protesters and the murder of Neda.
As soon as the result of the election was announced, Mousavi and anther candidate who had received a few million votes called the election a fraud and called on their supporters to come out to the streets.
Three hours after the closing of the polls, Mousavi had announced himself the winner. One prominent supporter of Mousavi, the wife of Rafsanjani (he heading the Assembly of Experts, which elects the supreme leader), when asked at the polling station what she thought, she said if we do not win, we will ask people to come out to protest.
This was done without even attempting to file a formal complaint via legal means. In Iran, like America, there are channels for challenging election results. Such channels were used in the US by Gore and by many other candidates for Senate races and such. Mr. Mousavi, who was running as a candidate for the presidency of Iran and would have had to swear to uphold the constitution, completely bypassed any legal means and challenged the whole system of elections, while it was the system used in the prior election when Ahmdinejad, without the advantage of incumbency, had won.
Mousavi's supporters came out in large numbers in Tehran (Iran is not only Tehran). In many instances there were burnings of buses, breaking of windows of many shops (these are not Starbucks, but small businesses), breaking of windows of banks, attacks on and destruction of many personal cars, and many other acts of rioting. There are pictures of these protesters/rioters carrying big sticks and huge stones. These un-permitted protests continued for one week with hardly any police presence. We all know that in the US one has to go through a relatively lengthy process of getting a permit and one is not given the permit one asks for. We see how the demonstrators are limited to certain areas many blocks away from the target and how the protests are lined with police, and since 9/11, with the government claiming special security concerns, it has become so much more difficult. In America a legal protest can not take place overnight. When people come out in the street without a permit, they are automatically called rioters and everyone is arrested.
It was only after one week and the speech of the Supreme Leader that called on the political leaders of the opposition to control the ongoing riots, which had already resulted in four deaths, that the police stopped the illegal protests and riots. This, even though if you see the videos taken by supporters of Mousavi, there are fewer and fewer protesters and they all are fighting the police and the Basidjis and increasing the level of violence. So far, eight Basidjis have been killed by the rioters. Can you imagine what the police in the US would do if one of them were killed in a protest?
We know from experience that in the US, no protests without permit are allowed. If we decide to do civil disobedience, when the police come to arrest us, we peacefully submit to the arrest. If we choose to resist arrest, several riot police will come down on us with batons and beat us senseless and arrest us, and then we are charged with resisting arrest. All of this without our turning over buses and setting them on fire, making fire of the wreckage of motorcycles and other property we have destroyed, using the fire as a means of blocking police, throwing stones at the police from behind the fire, and so on.
With the report of the death of one young woman (Neda) in Iran on the street during the protests, the American media jump on it and assert that Neda was a protester and was killed by a member of the security police. All of this is asserted without allowing for the completion of the government's investigation into the crime scene, the bullet, and the other murder evidence, and in the absence of any picture of the person shooting at Neda. In addition, there have been conflicting reports as to how and where the shooting of Neda took place. (Of course all these reports come via Twitter and Facebook and such, none of them independently confirmed by reliable news sources). First it was reported that Neda was shot in a back alley while running away from police, implying that she was one of the protesters. Members of her family later reported that Neda was on a shopping trip, she got out of the car, and she was shot. The earlier reports said that she was shot by a sniper from a rooftop. Some reports said that she was shot by someone on a motorcycle, and that the person on the motorcycle was not in uniform. So the opposition group maintained that the person on the motorcycle, though not uniformed, was a government militia in plain clothes. Considering that there was no picture or video of the government security police confronting the protesters in the location where Neda was shot, and considering that there had been rioting and rioters were also armed, although the majority of the protesters were peaceful, it is as easy to speculate that Neda was shot by a rioter as to speculate that she was shot by a plainclothes government person. And since she was not even a protester, as tragic as her death is, why is she proclaimed as the hero of a "movement"? She was a victim, and since the disruption in society begain with the rioters, which resulted in the government bringing some riot police after one week of demonstrations, it is difficult to say that she was a victim of the government as opposed to a victim of the rioting.
At a time when the American media, when reporting on torture and mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Graib and "Gitmo", uses the word "alleged" even though there are pictues taken by the interrogators themselves, and despite the International Red Cross report that torture took place in Guantanamo; but in the case of Iran, they report the murder of Neda at the hand of Iranian security police as a fact. This in spite of all the conflicting reports, the lack of independent confirmation, and when the forensic work in Iran was not completed.