Wednesday, 14 November 2012

False assumption

Just imagine being mistaken for someone who has died and your photo being flashed around the world as being that person. And then imagine the other person was a political activist their government wanted to get rid of.

Quite a nightmare. And Neda Soltani, who was a victim of exactly this mistaken identity, is still trying to rebuild a life that was wrecked by the confusion - a confusion still being perpetuated by indifferent journalists.

Media outlets looking for a picture of Neda Agha-Soltan, who was shot dead during a demonstration in Tehran, found Neda Soltani's Facebook photo and assumed she was the same person. Her photo went around the world as the other Neda - and is still being misused even now.

Before the confusion, she was a Professor of English Literature leading a normal, unassuming life. In less than two weeks that life was torn apart. She received hate messages accusing her of being both an agent of the Islamic Republic and an agent of Western governments. She was hounded by the Ministry of Intelligence.

She had no choice but to flee the country, eventually settling in Germany where she obtained political asylum. She is still trying to put her life back together. She suffers from depression and nightmares - and total disbelief at the events that shattered her life.

The people she is most angry with are the Western media. They kept using her photo even though they knew it was the wrong one, and knowingly exposed her to extreme danger. She could easily have been murdered.

Simply because her name was similar to someone else's and she had a Facebook photo. Two tiny but disastrous facts.

My thanks to the BBC Magazine, which originally ran this story. Pic: Neda Soltani

16 comments:

Bijoux said...

That is a strange story. I'm confused about the dead person part. Do the people sending her hate messages and the Ministry of Intelligence think the real Neda faked her own death? I don't understand why they would hound someone they believed to be dead.

Nick said...

Bijoux: Indeed, that's not entirely clear from the various articles. But I think people made many wild assumptions about her following all the publicity linking her with the other Neda. The intelligence services wanted her to say she WAS the other Neda and that she hadn't died.

Grannymar said...

Is it any wonder that I have lost faith in anything a journalist says?

Nick said...

Grannymar: There aren't many journalists I would trust to give me accurate information. Too many of them repeat unconfirmed gossip, quite often recycled from other journalists' stories.

Secret Agent Woman said...

Good Lord.Those who refused to right the story once they'd been informed should be fined.

Nick said...

Agent: Journalists just don't do enough checks and double-checks on the material they're using. They let dubious things slip through too easily.

Cheerful Monk said...

It sounds like a good reason to stay away from Facebook.

Wisewebwoman said...

I believe anything that discredits the media and their hounding blood thirsty paparazzi.

This unfortunate woman got in the way of their selling ads and papers and they continued to abuse her.

And they will get away with it.

XO
WWW

Nick said...

Jean: That's a bit sweeping! There are some very positive features of Facebook along with the negatives. It's just unfortunate that she posted a photo and she looked so similar to the other Neda.

www: Well, there weren't any paparazzi in this case, it was just a reckless (and now wilful) confusion between two different people.

Roses said...

That's horrendous.

I was horrified when I read the story a few days ago, I remain so.

Poor woman. Your entire life in tatters because of mistaken identity and laziness.

Nick said...

Roses: If only her name had been say, Nadia Salumi and not something so awfully similar....

Nick said...

Bijoux: I've been trying to find more details of the hate messages, but the articles I've read so far don't mention them.

John Gray said...

the whole journalistic thing coupled with shakes up within social media means that things will need a shake up!BIG STYLE

Nick said...

John: I doubt if the media will ever get the regulatory shake-up they desperately need. Successive governments seem terrified of upsetting their potential sources of support come election-time.

Angelika's Photographic Sketchbook said...

Oh my ... never thought about that one.

Nick said...

Angelika: It makes you realise what horrific consequences can follow from one simple careless act.