UNITED NATIONS – As Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad solidifies his hold on power at the outset of his second term, what little press freedoms there were in the Islamic Republic are being snuffed out.
One example is Press TV.
An English language television satellite-Internet channel, Press TV, signed on in July 2007 as an “alternative” voice to CNN and BBC World TV.
While government funded, it insisted it was not government “controlled.”
Though decidedly left-of-center, Press TV did attract some noted U.S. conservatives such as former NYPD commissioner Bernard Kerik, who was an occasional “guest analyst.”
The “network” was not only staffed by local Iranians but also included a motley collection of veterans from CNN, BBC, al Jazeera and British radio.
While not broadcasting to an audience the size of a CNN or BBC, PTV did attract international attention and had begun to carve a niche of its own for those following events in the Middle East and Persian Gulf.
Then came the Iranian presidential elections.
As the race tightened and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s quest to retain power began to stumble, “things” began to “happen.”
Though technically independent, Press TV began devoting more time to supporters of Ahmadinejad’s re-election, say PTV sources who have asked for anonymity for fear of retaliation.
Reports also confirmed just days before the June 12 election, supporters of the Iranian president raided the PTV facility in Tehran and “appropriated” large sums of petty cash at will. Just who took the money and what was done with it was never clarified. Some Press TV staffers speculated it may have gone to buy votes or to pay organizers to get out the vote. It was never returned.
The heavy hand of the Iranian president also came down on the talk show side of the fledgling network. Live broadcasts were more than cut in half. The editorial independence of the operation became a “sham,” reported insiders. It reached a point where many of the CNN and BBC veterans quit the operation. Some Iranian journalists who returned home from Europe and the U.S. to “nurse” the new network then either quit or watched as their jobs were eliminated following the controversial presidential election.
The following are excerpts of e-mails from several PTV staffers who have kept personal blogs of the turmoil. Their identities are not revealed for fear of reprisals:
- “Today is my last day working for Press TV. I do not know if they will offer me another job somewhere else, but frankly I am so fed up with everything that I don’t even want to be here anymore. I will keep checking my e-mail until they take this account away from me.”
- “Some of the department staff decided to just leave. We could not put up with our new manager. Shahab (Mossavat a former CNN International anchor) is gone, as well as one of our coordinators are gone for good, Went back to London. The ‘live’ department does not run live shows anymore. The whole department has changed. I don’t even know why it is called ‘live.’ I taught gymnastics in when I was in America…and looked into teaching it here. Worst case scenario, I will teach here it here and look into teaching English as well. If I could build from scratch in the U.S. and then in Iran two years ago. I can do it again.”
- “I came to work after the cancellation of our live show. I am leaving the newsroom in three days … they kicked me out of here after only working with them for two weeks. I really don’t where to start… When I (eventually) come back to the U.S., this time I will appreciate the whole system far more.”
Ahmadinejad will make his yearly pilgrimage to the U.N. General Assembly next month. It is not clear whether he will meet President Barack Obama who will also be in New York City to attend the U.N. gathering.
WND has reported that the author of a book on the end of free speech in America documents the nation’s new “chief diversity officer” for the Federal Communications had advocated crippling fines for radio stations where the programming doesn’t meet government approval.
“Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski recently appointed Mark Lloyd, a former senior fellow at the George Soros-funded Center for American Progress, to be the FCC’s ‘chief diversity officer,’” says Brad O’Leary, author of “Shut Up America: The End of Free Speech.” “Lloyd is a proponent of the ‘Fairness Doctrine’ and recently wrote that the doctrine, and other regulatory tools such as localism and diversity mandates, should be employed by the FCC to limit the number of conservative voices on the air and supplant them with liberal voices. He also suggests fining conservative radio stations up to $250 million and giving the proceeds to the government-subsidized Corporation for Public Broadcasting.”
O’Leary cites a a paper Lloyd co-authored in 2007 for the Center for American Progress that urges the FCC to “balance” the airwaves through shortened broadcast license terms, diversity mandates and strict localism rules. In that report, Lloyd says the “Fairness Doctrine” was never actually repealed and is still enforceable today.