Free speech is, of course, a fundamental value. But not when it is abused by a media outlet to spread state-sponsored propaganda. And when that media outlet is based in London, there is no reason that the UK government needs to extend its hospitality to Iran’s propaganda arm, Press TV.
Following the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran, Houriya Ahmed calls for Press TV to be shut down in The Times of London (subscription-only):
There is an arm — albeit unofficial — of the Islamic republic at work here that could be punished to show British disapproval: Press TV’s London operation should be shut down.
Launched in 2007 as an “alternative” to Western media, Press TV is an English-language satellite television channel with a licence to operate in London. It is funded by, and acts as a mouthpiece for, the Iranian regime. Muslim and non-Muslim female presenters are required to wear the Islamic headscarf in front of the camera while broadcasting from London.
The truth is distorted and its reports manipulated to fit the Tehran regime’s agenda. One former correspondent, Jody Sabral, recently resigned in protest over the way Press TV covered the uprisings in the Arab world. She castigated the channel for ignoring much of the protest taking place in Syria, an Iranian ally, while providing “urgent” coverage of the Shia protests in Bahrain — hardly an accident, given Iran’s interest in fomenting unrest there to increase its power base.
The Iranian Green Revolution and the murder of Neda Agha Soltan by pro-regime thugs have been presented as Western conspiracies by Press TV. The channel even broadcast a coerced confession by Maziar Bahari, a Newsweek journalist while he was imprisoned on espionage charges. Ofcom is considering revoking Press TV’s licence after its investigation found that the channel should have declined to air the interview as it was clearly obtained under duress. In response to Ofcom’s findings, Press TV has claimed that it is a victim of “censorship” by “certain members of the Royal Family and Government”.
This is the same Press TV that published Nicholas Kollerstrom’s outrageous piece of Holocaust denial, The Walls of Auschwitz: A Review of the Chemical Studies and frequently features Lady Michelle Renouf, a neo-Nazi and supporter of Holocaust denier David Irving.
It’s high time that Press TV is taken off air.
Instead of revoking Press TV’s license to broadcast, Ofcom has, disappointingly, fined it £100,000 for multiple breaches of its code in relation to the Maziar Bahari case. As reported by the Jewish Chronicle:
In the ruling, Ofcom said the hefty fine had been imposed because of “the seriousness of the breaches”.
“The committee considered that the case represented serious and deliberate breaches of the code because of the vulnerable circumstances of the complainant Mr Bahari, the lack of steps to obtain his informed consent and the effect the broadcast had on him,” it said.
Ofcom’s ruling also said the penalty should also encourage Press TV “not to repeat the material found in breach on any future occasion”.
Ofcom also said Press TV had to broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings on the channel.