A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Ahmadinejad v. ‘Argo’

Argo

By Meghan Lalonde

Millions of people may have flocked to theaters around the world to see “Argo” – this year’s Academy Award-winning Best Picture, directed by Ben Affleck – but Iran’s leaders weren’t nearly as entertained.

Iranian officials have called the award-winning film “part of an Iranophobic movement” in Hollywood. To counter what they see as anti-Iranian propaganda, Iran plans to fund a cinematic response to “Argo” about revolutionaries who help American hostages and return them to U.S. authorities.

But retribution on the silver screen isn’t satisfying enough for some. Press TV, an Iranian media network, recently announced that officials have consulted with renowned French lawyer Isabelle Coutant-Peyre about a possible lawsuit against the creators and producers of Anti-Iranian films. “I will defend Iran against the film’s like ‘Argo,’ which are produced in Hollywood to distort the country’s image.

But can she? LASIS investigates.

While Iran is in favor of international laws that would criminalize blasphemous comments about Islam and other religions, there isn’t currently any law like this on the books anywhere in the world.

But under American law, Iran might be able to sue right here on American soil. Under 28 U.S.C.§1332, diversity jurisdiction exists in federal district courts for civil claims arising between foreign states (Iran), or individuals of foreign states, and American citizens (Ben Affleck) and businesses (Warner Bros.) of the United States, in cases when the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000. So Iran could sue on behalf of the entire Republic in federal court

Or Iranian officials could also act as individually named plaintiffs under §1332 and bring the claim the same way. The bottom line is simple: if Iran wants to sue Hollywood badly enough the American legal system provides a way.

We presume that Iran would like to pursue some sort of defamation claim. But defamation deals with the publication of “facts” which the plaintiff alleges are untrue. Aside from documentaries, movies, even those that are based on history  — don’t primarily seek to tell the truth – they seek to entertain.

Note to Iran: There’s truth. There’s justice. And then there’s Hollywood.  Those things don’t necessarily overlap. And that’s the American way.

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