Golriz Ghahraman and Post Truth
Golriz Ghahraman is another potential casualty of the 'Post Truth' era of mainstream media reporting and the dirty, ignorant politics behind it.
Chris Trotter and Bryce Edwards have accused the Greens of being politically naive and being caught misrepresenting the facts. Similar accusations occurred after Metiria Turei's speech where she admitted minor benefit fraud to expose the realities of being a beneficiary. I feel the real issues and problems are being ignored and there is a good deal of hypocrisy at play.
The political environment is a rough one and any politician needs a thick skin to survive, however, it is not a level playing field and Brian Gould was able to explain this well when he compared the difference in treatment of the previous Prime Minister and Turei. Surely we should be more concerned about unethical, ill-informed reporting and deliberate misinformation coming from our mainstream news outlets. When comparing the treatment of Ghahraman to that of John Key when he was campaigning to be Prime Minister, his inaccuracy regarding his Transrail shares should have been career ending. The fact that Chris Bishop worked for a company producing a product that kills people also only got passing mention as a new MP, so clearly dodgy financial dealings and immoral profits don't deserve the same negative scrutiny.
Ghahraman has ended up dealing with a media storm based on an incredibly ill-informed opinion piece and a willingness to amplify what has clearly become a campaign to take out junior politician with strong human justice credentials. What this really shows isn't the naivety of the Greens and Ghahraman but the naivety of many journalists who are are displaying their ignorance and lack of integrity by amplifying what is essentially a dirty, deliberate campaign.
The attacks on Golriz Ghahraman are not just a random discovery of an inaccuracy (which is debatable anyway) in her CV, but a carefully constructed attempt to discredit her. Phil Quin's damning opinion piece started it all off and one has to conclude that he was either extremely ignorant of legal process or he deliberately wanted to do damage. The photo that has now been widely circulated (of Ghahraman standing with the accused) is very grainy and its actual context is surmised and emotionalised. Some effort was clearly needed to find it in the first place and Ghahraman obviously had no memory of it when first questioned about it. Quin's article and Twitter comment are actually libellous and his later apology demonstrates some awareness of this, however, the original baseless revelation has developed a life of its own and the backtrack has been lost in the noise.
New Zealand actually has a poor record regarding refugees and their human rights. We are ranked 90th in the world per capita for accommodating refugees (116th when our relative wealth is included) and rarely make strong stands on human rights abuses that occur around us. We ignore the atrocities in West Papua (even though our pacific neighbours have voiced concerns), were prepared to ignore the human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia to further a trade deal and the previous government felt compelled to apologise to Israel for New Zealand's part in an international condemnation of its illegal occupations.
When it comes to New Zealand's position regarding external conflicts and the status of refugees it seems that we follow the lead of the US and conservative western diplomacy. This approach resulted in genuine refugee Ahmed Zaoui suffering imprisonment in New Zealand before human rights advocacy and the support of Green MP Keith Locke saw robust scrutiny of his case and eventual freedom. Keith Locke himself suffered a high level of persecution for promoting human rights issues and the release of his SIS file revealed that he had been spied on for most of his life, including when he was an MP.
It stands to reason that there are many powerful groups who do not want to see an MP within the current government who could challenge the status quo around our refugee numbers and our approach to international abuses. To discredit Ghahraman and destroy her credibility early in her career would serve their interests well.
We should be able to rely on our news media to take a considered and informed approach to reporting opinions that may be defamatory and that some attempt would be made to research the basis of the original accusations. The Criminal Bar Association strongly defended Ghahraman and other journalists have provided evidence that there was no attempt to hide her defence work as claimed. However, we find the same high profile journalists and primetime media personalities who attacked Turei, enthusiastically repeating similar misinformation to attack Ghahraman. Mike Hosking flaunted his untucked ignorance with his usual ideological bias and Duncan Garner again promotes his simplistic views of the world.
Chris Bishop has never hidden the fact that he once worked for a tobacco company but he would hardly be going around promoting the fact (as it does question his morality) and Ghahraman has also been open about her defence work in Rwanda. However, unlike Bishop, the fact that she doesn't always refer to it isn't because of the moral questions it would raise, but because of the general ignorance regarding the importance of the work, which has been clearly demonstrated since.
Post truth reporting has become commonplace in our mainstream news media, if honest and decent politicians are going to survive the inevitable dirty politics (from an opposition supported by the powerful neoliberal forces) then we need a strong, independent public broadcaster. The loudest voices are currently fuelled by ideology and ignorance, we need a stronger voice in our Fourth Estate driven by ethics and evidence.