Human RightsIran

Ofcom’s Press TV ruling unjust, illogical

The British government’s broadcasting regulator once again changes its verdict on Press TV to give a new twist to the long-running Ofcom versus Press TV saga.

The regulator announced that Press TV is required to pay a 100,000-pound fine and “broadcast a statement of Ofcom’s findings on its service Press TV in a form to be determined.”

Ofcom announced in October the decision to remove the Iranian English-language news network from the Sky platform under the pretext that Press TV made administrative errors in its application for a license in 2007. In November the regulator changed its verdict and announced that due to its infringement on a journalist’s privacy, Ofcom was fining Press TV 100,000 pounds

Ofcom claims Press TV violated the regulator’s broadcasting code by airing a 10-second soundbite belonging to journalist Maziar Bahari in 2009.

In the 10-second clip, which was part of an interview conducted with Bahari, he says , “On Monday, June 15 [2009], I sent a report about the attack against the base, a military base of Basij to Channel 4 News as well as to Newsweek magazine.”

This comes while, in numerous later interviews with Western media outlets, Bahari himself readily confirms what he said in the 10-second soundbite, i.e. that he was the person who sent the footage.

It should be noted that major state-sponsored British media outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporations (BBC) and Channel 4 have also aired the shortened footage.

Press TV later aired a more detailed version of the same event that clearly showed images of rioters attacking a Basij military base with stones and petrol bombs, while the guards were trying to defuse the situation and prevent assailants from accessing the base’s arms cache and having hundreds of weapon fall into the wrong hands.

The extended footage clearly showed that the previous reporting by the state-run BBC and Channel 4 had been biased and distorted as they deliberately failed to show the attack by rioters on the military base which had prompted them to react.

Independent analysts say Ofcom is under mounting pressure from the British royal family to silence Press TV’s critical voice. The British royal family exercises an overarching power over all branches in the political system of the country, including the government and the parliament, as well as on Ofcom.

Press TV has criticized the royal family’s lavish expenditures at a time of great economic difficulty in the UK. The royal family later sent a message to Press TV, asking the network to stop criticizing them.

Recent documents released by WikiLeaks revealed that American and British diplomats had discussed restricting Press TV operations in Britain.

The cable, sent in February 2010, quotes a member of Britain’s Foreign Office stating that the UK government was “exploring ways to limit the operations of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s Press TV service, which operates a large bureau (over 80 staff) in London”.

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