| ||Roshan Muhammed Salih, Head of News at Press TV, contributes his thoughts about the Iranian-funded channel on the Guardian's Comment is Free website, and discusses the recent campaign to undermine it. He writes: |
‘The past few weeks have seen a British media campaign against the supposed mouthpiece of Iran, the channel I work for, Press TV. A campaign which is hypocritical in the extreme, as exemplified by a sneering Newsnight report, several offensive articles by rightwing commentators, and most recently a misleading post by Seth Freedman on Comment is Free.
‘The gist of the allegations is as follows: we are an Iranian regime mouthpiece; we have failed to cover the recent Iranian elections fairly; we are Holocaust deniers; and British journalists and politicians should not work for us. So let me respond to these accusations and let me be clear: I stand by Press TV.'
‘Those of us who work here do so because Press TV attempts to broadcast the truth about what is happening in the world, and fills a void that the mainstream media has left wide open. The channel is willing to give a platform to legitimate actors whom the western media will not touch, such as Hamas and Hezbollah, while at the same time reporting what the authorities are saying. In the west, we give a platform to those who hold up a mirror to society, such as the anti-war movement, while at the same time letting those who are proud of all the west stands for have their say.
‘Our international staff have a huge variety of worldviews, and we realise that in the modern media environment state propaganda is a thing of the past. All you need to do is watch the channel to realise that Press TV gives a platform to a wide diversity of views – pro-Israel and anti-Iranian government among them.
‘During the Iranian elections, we covered all points of view – pro-Ahmadinejad, pro-Mousavi, anti-government and pro-government – and reported on all post-election rallies and protests. This is in sharp contrast to the western media, which failed to report the views of the millions who voted for Ahmadinejad and have often let unsubstantiated opposition claims go unchallenged. We are also regulated by Ofcom, which means we must stick to strict broadcasting regulations regarding balance, due impartiality and objectivity.
‘But the most oft-repeated canard about Press TV is that we are Holocaust deniers. Just last week the TUC made it clear that it is no longer willing to co-operate with us because of an article questioning aspects of the Holocaust that appeared on our website. Several MPs and other prominent people have taken the same view. But again, let me be clear: Press TV as a station does not deny the Holocaust. It is true that we took the controversial decision a while back to give a platform to one person who does deny aspects of the Holocaust based on freedom of speech considerations. But it is important for people to realise that we have also given a platform to many, many more people who have debunked these views.
‘We are simply a platform for people to speak and it is unfair to link us directly with everything our guests say. The BBC has interviewed the BNP's Nick Griffin but does this mean the TUC and others will be boycotting them as well? Of course it doesn't, because people take the moral high ground when they deal with the weak, but shed their principles when faced by the strong.
‘Press TV is a young channel with a minuscule budget, compared to the big boys, that is also heading in the right direction. I'm not saying we are perfect – I am sure we have made mistakes and will continue to make them in the future. Entrenched attitudes need to develop, a tolerance of different views needs to become the norm. But quite frankly that will inevitably happen once the west accepts the Islamic Republic for what it is, rather than treating it as a pariah just because it opposes western foreign policy. So if the anti-Iran brigade really want the country and its institutions (such as Press TV) to reform, they should call for an end to economic sanctions, military threats and destabilisation programs. Above all, they need to engage with us.’
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