Kandahar: Is Der Herald a Real Newspaper? Is Luna Cujai Based on a Real Journalist?

Set in Afghanistan, ‘Kandahar’ is an action thriller film directed by Ric Roman Waugh that stars Gerard Butler as its protagonist. CIA Operative Tom Harris plays a significant role in destroying an Iran nuclear reactor. Shortly after, while on a covert black ops mission at Herat Afghanistan, Tom learns his identity and mission details have been exposed by the media to the public. Following the leak, several armed forces chase after Tom and his Afghan translator Mohammad “Mo” Doud, as the duo tries to escape from the country.

Luna Cujai, an Iranian Journalist, and her newspaper outlet “Der Herald” reveal Tom’s and his co-operative Oliver Alterman’s information. Due to their instrumental involvement in the film’s base premise, viewers might be curious to know if Luna Cujai and Der Herald have a relation to reality. If you’re wondering about the same, here is everything we know about it!

Are Der Herald and Luna Cujai Real?

No, Der Herald is not a real newspaper, and neither is Luna Cujai based on a real journalist. Writer Mitchell LaFortune formerly served in the U.S. military on the Defense Intelligence Agency. Although LaFortune took inspiration from his own experiences when crafting Tom’s narrative, his involvement in destroying an Iranian nuclear plant is a work of fiction meant to drive the plot along. Since none of Iran’s nuclear reactors have been destroyed by American forces, it’s safe to assume that the details surrounding the incident, including its media coverage, likely have no firm basis in reality.

In the film’s beginning, Tom Harris and Oliver Alterman covertly tap into the telephone lines near Qom. In order to do so, the duo use their covers as workers of the Siblixt, a cover company, and pretend to be under government employment to increase the internet speed in the area. Through this, the CIA is able to cause a massive explosion within the nuclear facility.

Even though Tom and Oliver’s undercover assignments are fictionalized events, a nuclear plant near the city of Qom called Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant does exist. When the U.S. first discovered the plant, some concerns were raised about the practical application of a nuclear reactor of such size and hidden location. Nevertheless, the CIA never carried out any covert operation to take the facility down.

As such, when incorporating the fictionalized event into the film’s narrative, ‘Kandahar’ fabricated Iranian news outlet Der Herald and Journalist Luna Cujai. Still, due to the film’s relevant political overview, the narrative lightly discusses some real-life issues through Luna’s storyline. After Luna exposes America’s operations, Fazard Asadi, an Iranian government official, kidnaps her and interrogates her to reveal the identities of the individuals behind the operation.

With Luna’s storyline, the film brushes upon the dangers and risks that journalists face in oppressive countries where governments have a lot of power over citizens. The film never tries to trivialize the social issues found in middle eastern countries, especially Iran and Afghanistan. Instead, it aims to represent the realities of people living in politically and socially tumultuous countries. Recently following public protests in Iran, multiple female journalists received threatening messages from the government to intimidate and silence them.

As such, by showcasing Luna Cujai’s mistreatment, ‘Kandahar’ discusses the lack of safety that has proven to be harmful to many Iranian journalists, regardless of gender. According to Reporters Without Borders, Iran is one of the “biggest jailers of journalists” as of now. Currently, many journalists are facing arrests, interrogation, harassment, and such, with more than 70 journalists arrested for covering recent protests. Therefore, the mistreatment of journalists in an effort to oppress them isn’t unheard of in Iran.

Ultimately, both Der Herald and journalist Luna Cujai are works of fiction created by writer Mitchell LaFortune. Still, the writer based this film on his own authentic experience. As such, the theme of oppressive journalism, as conveyed by Der Herald and Luna Cujai, have roots in reality.

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