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Entries in Abdollah Ramezanzadeh (1)


UPDATED Iran Video Special: Have Fars (& Revolutionary Guard) Faked a Reformist "Confession" on Election?


UPDATE 1645 GMT: James Miller, who is a professional audio engineer, has gone through a YouTube version of the Fars News video of the Tajzadeh "confession". (The original video is still down.)

Miller's preliminary finding indicates --- though it does not prove --- that the audio has been manipulated. The full text of his finding is at the bottom of this entry.

Miller will examine the video further in his studio tomorrow.

UPDATE 1510 GMT: The original video of the Tajzadeh "confession" no longer loads on the Fars News site. Technical error or has it been pulled?

UPDATE 18 August: The Facebook page supporting Mostafa Tajzadeh has released material to counter the Fars video. In a question-and-answer session with readers, Tajzadeh says his claimed "confession" that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won the 2009 election is based on an "incomplete understanding" and thus a "false interview" distorting comments he made in 2008.

The page also has a video of Tajzadeh's most recent comments on the 2009 election, made just before he returned to prison from temporary leave: “Based on how they (government officials) have treated us, they are admitting that they carried out a coup in the election; because if they were clear of this [charge], they immediately would have welcomed this complaint [by seven prominent reformist detainees against the military for manipulation of the election]. They would have said, sure bring this on to investigate….The Supreme Leader had been saying that we should protest though legal means. Therefore we tried the legal means and we said that we want to make an official complaint [to the judiciary] that there was an election coup. Now the response of the judiciary officials is to call us back to the prison!”

This morning Fars News posted a 43-second video claiming to show former Minister of Interior Mostafa Tajzadeh, detained in Evin Prison, "confessing" to three fellow prisoners ---reformist politicians Mohsen Safai-Farahani and Abdollah Ramezanzadeh, and an unidentified man --- that Mir Hossein Mousavi had lost the 2009 Presidential election to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Tajzadeh supposedly says:
I have experience in handling elections, so I know what happened. It is possible than one or two million votes have been displaced; we would have gotten 14-15 million votes. Not 25. We have lost the elections.

EA correspondents consulted immediately for, as one of the staff commented, "Unless they all knew that they were being filmed and wanted to either tease or appease their captors, this is quite a development."

Doubts soon emerged, however. Sources in Iran said that the sound on the video appeared to have been manipulated, with subtitles added to cover up the "doctoring" of the audio; another theory was that Tajzadeh was referring to a previous Presidential election. The location of the meeting is clearly not Evin Prison; it appears to be a residence (possibly of the unidentified 4th person in the video?).

So did Fars News carry out this video effort on its own or was it assisted? We have no confirmation yet, but our suspicion is that this was a Revolutionary Guard initiative through the website.

Still, that leaves the question: why attempt such a blunt attempt at propaganda? (I asked an EA correspondent, "How many folks inside Iran will believe this is Evin?". Answer: "Very few.")

Another EA correspondent offers the motive, "Iranian authorities simply don't have anything better against Tajzadeh. He hasn't blinked an eye in court, unlike [former Vice President Mohammad Ali] Abtahi and [journalist Mohammad] Atrianfar, both of whom gave televised 'confessions'. They are the only two who have been milked. If anyone was really confessing [in Tajzadeh's case], then it would have been done last year, filmed on pristine camera and shown on national TV."

Postscript (18 August): James Miller's Preliminary Finding on the Audio

The video can clearly be split into 4 sentences, according to the translation:

(1-12 Seconds: Fars news introduction)

12-15 Seconds: "I have experience in handling elections, so I know what happened."

18-22 Seconds: "It is possible than one or two million votes have been displaced"

23-27 seconds: "We would have gotten 14-15 million votes. Not 25."

28-29 seconds: "We have lost the elections."

Looking at the continuity of the audio, we can tell with a degree of certainty that the middle two sentences flow uninterrupted and were recorded at the same time. In the slight pause between the two, there is movement, including the knocking (audible and visual) of the right hand of the man on the right side of the video.

However, listening to the white noise that is constant in the background, one can hear slight, very subtle popping sounds after the first sentence. The same noise repeats, much louder, immediately before the last sentence of the recording, and again before the video loop begins.

Slight popping noise can often be associated with the digital manipulation of audio files. This occurs when two audio sources are put together and they do not adequately blend.

If the pop is subtle, it is because of a small (think microscopic) gap between sources. If it is louder, it is because these audio sources combine at the seem, doubling the volume for that same microscopic moment of time. In the worst case scenario, transient noise combines while the gap can still be heard, giving a little snap.

Typically, in recorded music, these noises can be minimized by crossfading the two sections together. The gap is eliminated, and the new audio source covers the pop, which has been lowered in volume. However, with white noise this is difficult for two reasons. First of all, there is very little time to blend clips together, eliminating the possibility of longer fades. Secondly, the listener can clearly make out the changes in cadence and tone of the background noise.

The popping is not terribly loud in the video because the source (the background noise) is not loud, but these seem to be inconsistent with the rest of the video where the background noise is unbroken. It is also interesting that these audio inconsistencies only occur after the first sentence, and more loudly before the last, while the middle two (which are validated by the knocking sound) are free from any change in background noise.

There is no evidence of tampering between the second and third sentences, but there does seem to be some (inconclusive) evidence of potential tampering, especially between the third and fourth sentences.

Without the full context, it appears as though Fars is trying to hide something, and their obvious manipulation (looping of the last sentence) is another sign that they are generally untrustworthy. Why has the original been taken down, and why haven't the full tapes been released, if Fars has nothing to hide?

Context is everything within an audio bite. Tajzadeh could have preceded these sentences wtih a dicussion about what the official party line would be, meaning this entire excerpt is a hypothetical quote. Also, "we have lost the elections" is a fact, rather than a statement of one's belief about the official results. (Ahmadinejad is operationally the president of Iran. Mousavi, regardless of vote count, operationally lost. That does not mean that Tajzadeh endorses the legitimacy of the fact.)