TOPICS > Politics

Iran Plans Limited Recount, Media Faces Restrictions

June 16, 2009 at 6:05 PM EST
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At least 7 people were reported killed in Tehran during ongoing protests of last week's disputed presidential election as Iran's 12-person Guardian Council said it would begin a partial recount of votes. Los Angeles Times reporter Borzou Daragahi talks to Margaret Warner from Tehran.
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JIM LEHRER: Now an update from Tehran. It comes from Los Angeles Times reporter Borzou Daragahi. Margaret Warner talked with him by phone moments ago.

MARGARET WARNER: Borzou Daragahi, thank you for being with us. I know it’s very late now in Tehran. What’s the situation right now? Are people still out in the streets?

BORZOU DARAGAHI, Los Angeles Times: Right now, people have left the streets, as far as I know, and things have gotten calm. It is 1:30 in the morning, but there seems to be a sort of rhythm developing every day, where people who are opponents of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and supporters of the defeated candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, gather for a rally.

They go to that rally. There are, you know, slight confrontations, violent confrontations as those rallies peter out. And then at night, around 9:00 to 11:00, people get up on their rooftops and they chant, “God is great,” and other more political slogans, including “Death to the dictator,” and then honk their horns for a few hours.

And then, in various spots throughout the capital, there are confrontations, it seems nightly, between semi-official pro-government Basij militia and more rowdy, assertive protesters who engage in these street battles with them.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, there were a lot of reports in the American media today about restrictions on the media in Iran and also on the ability of Iranians just to communicate with one another. How tight are the restrictions?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: Well, the government has asked the foreign journalists here to avoid going to unauthorized rallies such as those big protests. And I think it’s as much for their own security, because they feel they can’t guarantee the journalists’ security as much as possibly for control of the images, because the images are getting out because of the ubiquity of video cameras on cell phones and the Internet.

But Internet has also slowed down, and there might be some technical reasons for that. It has nothing to do with politics. Because of the huge volume of hits coming from North America and Europe to Iranian Web sites, unprecedented as people try to get information out of here, the amount that Iranians are using Web sites. However, many Web sites, popular Web sites like Facebook, are being shuttered, YouTube, as well.

Reactions to partial recount

MARGARET WARNER: Now, the other big news we heard about today, of course, was the Guardian Council announcing it would do a partial recount. Any details on how that will work? And has the Mousavi camp responded?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: The Mousavi camp has not responded to the extent that I know of. I know that the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, met with representatives of the various campaigns in a meeting today in which they discussed this recount and the election process and so on in an attempt to give this process more legitimacy.

As far as I know, the recount, it's not exactly clear how they will do it. They have 10 days to do it. And what I imagine, from what the reports that I've been reading, what they're going to do is examine specific locales where there's allegations of irregularities, of monitors not being allowed or ballot boxes going missing and such.

MARGARET WARNER: And, finally, do the opposition people or people from either side actually that you've been talking to on the phone or however, what side feels it has the momentum? And does the opposition have anything, for example, planned for tomorrow?

BORZOU DARAGAHI: The opposition definitely does feel like it has the momentum. And it's really curious that there doesn't seem to be guided from anywhere, because Mr. Mousavi seems to be under somewhat restricted status. He's not really out there kind of leading the charge.

These are kids who seem to be putting this all together. And today was really extraordinary in the way that the kids undermined the government's attempts at kind of countering their rally which they had scheduled a day earlier by quickly, within a couple hours, organizing a new rally away from the spot where the original rally was going to be held.

It was amazing that they did it; I'm still not sure how they did that. But it points to possibly a whole new political element in Iran.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, we're glad you're there to cover it. Borzou Daragahi of the L.A. Times, Los Angeles Times, thank you so much.

BORZOU DARAGAHI: It's been a pleasure.