Media specialist Saeed Arkanzadeh Yazdi in Tehran has noted that given the current upheaval in Iran, the government-controlled media has become much more reactionary.
He argued a report in the reformist newspaper Etemad November 17 that before the start of the uprising in mid-September, state television and all news agencies were already trumpeting the government’s unilateral ideas. He added that in addition to some relatively independent newspapers and websites, other government-owned news outlets are also owned.
Journalists faced many limitations, including extremely limited access to internet content and slow connections. Almost all social media platforms have been filtered and made inaccessible, Arkanzadeh noted, adding that the scene changed dramatically after the protests began in September.
Several journalists were arrested to intimidate others. However, access to the internet was possible via virtual private networks (VPN). The arrests of journalists and the incriminating allegations against them have all but brought journalism to a halt in Iran, although state television and media have continued their one-sided reporting with renewed vigour.
As professional domestic media became ineffective, people were inevitably pushed towards Persian media based abroad and used VPNs to access social media and news and information from independent sources.
The headquarters of Iranian state television in Tehran
Meanwhile, older people who couldn’t use the VPNs were being deprived of news and information. Arkanzadeh wrote that two months after the uprising, statements by country officials and even military commanders like the IRGC commander in Isfahan blamed foreign and social media for the ongoing unrest. This could result in even more restrictions being imposed on the media.
Meanwhile, despite an openness on state television early in the protest movement to allow debates between previously neglected pro-reformists, television has returned to its old routine of debates between very hardliners and ultra-hardliners.
This, Arkanzadeh says, is likely to push viewers further to social media and foreign Persian television channels, where there is no censorship and what they broadcast is in sharp contrast to what is being broadcast on national television.
According to sociologist Taqi Azad Armaki, “The state television in Iran is currently not even under the control of the government. Instead of being impartial, it supports the government’s side in dealing with the current upheaval. So instead of calming the situation, it stokes the fire of the progressive bipolar situation.”
Amid these changes, in a series of eight tweets on March 17, wrote US special envoy to Iran Robert Malley that the United States sanctioned senior executives and key employees of Iranian state television the previous day. Malley named interrogation reporters Ameneh Sadat Zabihpour and Ali Rezvani and state television chief Peyman Jebelli as three of those individuals, adding, “These individuals embody the Islamic Republic’s efforts to intimidate journalists and spread disinformation.” Malley further noted that “IRIB regularly airs coerced confessions from journalists, dual national activists and political prisoners.”
Mentioning the reporters’ role in incriminating Iranian reports like Rouhollah Zam and religious minorities like the Baha’is with their fabricated reports, Malley added that Jebelli was sanctioned “for his role in Iran’s censorship activities,” noting that “IRIB sends the forced confessions”. at his direction.”