While Iran is making headlines with the fight over the nuclear deal, the media are ignoring another topic in the same country: violent persecution of Christians.
At a Christian Media Summit held in Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asked media outlets present to report on the Christians persecuted in Iran. While the broadcast networks were aware of the event, they didn’t mention his remarks.
Netanyahu specifically called out Iran at the summit.
“Iran is a threat to the entire world, but today I want to focus on Iran's war against Christians,” he began. “As you all know, Christians are brutally persecuted in the Islamic Republic.”
He pointed to specific examples.
“Pastors are jailed for no reason, no reason other than for being Christian leaders. Christians have been lashed. You hear this?” he said. “Christians have been lashed for sipping wine during prayer services. Christians have been brutally tortured for doing nothing more than practicing their faith.”
While “some world leaders are willing to ignore this repression and seek to appease Iran,” he said, he would not.
“I think that how a country treats religious minorities is a very good indicator of how it will treat its other citizens and its neighbors,” he stressed.
In his conclusion, he urged the media present to cover the stories of the persecuted:
So today I have a simple request for the media outlets in this room: Dedicate this week to highlighting the plight of the countless Christians suffering under Iran. Profile the brave Christian leaders jailed for practicing their faith. Sit with the families of the school teachers jailed for years merely for converting to Christianity. Call out the lie and the lies of President Rouhani, who promised in 2013 that all religions would, quote, ‘feel justice in Iran,’ while so many Christians live there in constant terror.
While the three broadcast networks didn't air his comments, they knew of the event. An online CBS article reported that 30 journalists from roughly 30 countries attended, including the Christian Broadcasting Network which did report on his remarks.
On Aug. 15, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson addressed Iran while releasing the State Department’s 2016 International Religious Freedom Annual Report where he formally accused ISIS of genocide (though Americans wouldn’t know that by watching the broadcast networks).
“In Iran, Baha’is, Christians, and other minorities are persecuted for their faith,” he stressed in his comments. “Iran continues to sentence individuals to death under vague apostasy laws – 20 individuals were executed in 2016 on charges that included, quote, ‘waging war against God.’”
In August 2016, the MRC found that, in the past two-and-half years, the evening news shows reported on the persecution of Christians in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia only 60 times. And of those 60 reports, just six used the word “genocide.”
In regard to Iran, the report read:
“In January 2016, as the networks celebrated the Obama administration’s Iranian nuclear deal, Iran released several American prisoners. Among them was Saeed Abedini, a Christian pastor who’d been sentenced in 2013 to eight years in prison for establishing home churches in the Shia Muslim nation. The networks all reported his release, and interviewed his wife. But for NBC and CBS, it was the first time they’d ever mentioned Abedini. On Nov. 26, 2013, ABC correspondent Brian Ross briefly mentioned Abedini as part of a list of Americans Iran was holding.
Methodology: MRC Culture searched “Netanyahu” in transcripts of the morning and evening news shows from ABC, CBS and NBC.