Look beyond Instagram stories 

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A countertop featuring a newspaper and a magazine article. While many rely on social media as their primary news source, it’s important to check reliable news sources, as social media can be a breeding ground for misinformation. Photo by cottonbro/Pexels

On Sunday, when I pitched my idea for this article, I had just seen a post circulating around Instagram alleging that 15,000 protesters in Iran were sentenced to execution. I thought it important to write about this, especially after seeing comments asking for there to be more coverage on this in the United States. I mean, even Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau tweeted about it. 

Then I saw another post revealing it all as fake — that the original post was a form of colonial-imperialist media, a form of spreading misinformation about the Iranian government to garner opposition and portray Iranians as villains. After initially feeling shame for having believed the original graphic so quickly, I realized that it’s not ridiculous to believe claims shared by people such as prime ministers, especially considering that the current main source of news for many is through social media. 

I did, however, take these conflicting posts as a sign to get off of Instagram and read, perhaps, an actual news source.  

I went in with the mindset that I am not going to know every detail by the time I log off the article. Instead, I am probably going to receive more information about the situation that will introduce me to new schools of thought. There is never going to be a point where I will think, “Yeah okay, I know enough about this now. My opinion is concrete. I am done learning.” 

From what I’ve read, one protestor has been sentenced to death. 20 protestors face potential death penalties. Human rights groups warn that there could be more sudden executions.. Additionally, the United States Human Rights Activists News Agency claims that 15,800 protesters in Iran have been detained and 344 protestors have been killed since the start of the protests. They also note that independent reporting is not allowed in Iran, so they cannot confirm those statistics. 

Social media cannot be our primary source of media. It’s helpful for bringing light to matters that otherwise would remain unheard of, but it cannot end there. I know it’s nothing revolutionary to say, but this past week served as a reminder to myself that there is merit in using Instagram as a jumping-off point, but we have to use it as a tool to learn more instead of as the source of all sources.  

Here is my reaction to that: Whether it be one protestor or 15,000, death is death. It is about the principle of the cruelty of capital punishment. No one should face execution for protesting. Although the protester did set fire to a government building, I don’t think this is a black-and-white issue — context of the political climate in Iran is essential to consider. That being said, the government should not hold the ability to decide someone’s life sentence. Then I think, perhaps the issue is one about capital punishment, but why am I going to write an article condemning the death penalty in Iran when the death penalty exists in 20 states in my own country?  

Ultimately, this article isn’t about the death penalty — we’ll save that for another time. I think of the women in Iran and what I would expect from activists in other countries that are removed from this situation. 

The pressing matter is bringing attention to the initial issue: Human rights groups say that 22-year-old Mahsa Amini was wrongfully killed by Iranian security forces. I wrote an article a few weeks ago about the Iranian protests and how I felt entirely helpless here in the United States. I still do feel helpless. However, there is value in advocating for our beliefs in our own country, such as abolishing the death penalty, in the hopes of creating a model government. 

I think it’s also a matter of accepting the limited amount of power we have as individuals. As I said in my other article, I’m going to do what I can and do it to my fullest capacity. I’m going to write my opinion and express my thoughts loudly. Simultaneously, I sit with the knowledge that while I have my own opinions, I am constantly learning. I hold space for the potential of new information. I never want to reach a point where I’ve decided that I simply know enough.

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