Ban on Iranian media: a sector with no links to the nuclear programme

By Hasan Rahimi Majd

The US and the West, in addition to their unilateral economic and financial sanctions, which lack UN support, have recently made the Iranian media also the target of their illegal actions. This time the victims of the attack are not the people of Iran but the Persian, Arabic and English language audience of the Iranian media throughout the world. In a flagrant violation of the human right to freedom of expression, some satellite providers removed Iranian channels off the air and the western media which gives priority to the coverage of the economic sanctions imposed on Iran, keep mum about sanctions against the Iranian channels.

 The Hong Kong-based Asia Satellite Telecommunications Co. Ltd. (AsiaSat) has taken all Iranian channels off air in East Asia and, therefore, the Iranian channels are not being received in India as well from 15 November. The satellite provider says the decision is in line with a law recently signed by the US President. According to the new sanctions regime, American companies are banned from doing business with Iran. Nearly 37 percent of AsiaSat’s shares are owned by the General Electric which itself is owned by an American company.

 The European Satellite Company (Eutelsat) ordered the media service provider, Arqiva, to take 19 Iranian radio and TV channels off its Hot Bird satellite from October 15. These channels include Press TV, Al-Alam, Jam-e-Jam 1 and 2, Sahar 1 and 2, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network (IRINN), Quran TV and Al-Kawthar. The Eutelsat, through an official statement, announced that this decision was taken on the basis of the sanctions imposed by the European Union.

The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also ordered the International Telecommunications Satellite Organization (Intelsat) to stop broadcasting Iranian channels.

In line with the efforts to silence the Iranian media which exposes the criminality, hypocrisy and duplicity of the policies of the Zionist regime and the western powers, Maya Naser, the Press TV correspondent, who used to report crimes of the foreign powers in Syria, was assassinated on 26 September this year while reporting from the field.

Imposing a ban on the Iranian media, which has no links with the Iranian nuclear programme, shows that the whole project of inhuman sanctions against the 75 million people of Iran is not derived from the alleged concern that it is trying to build nuclear weapons, but is motivated to silence the alternative voice coming out from this country.

As Finian Cunningham, a prominent Irish columnist, wrote in his articles “Silencing Press TV is murdering the truth”, the west claims that the aim of these sanctions is to draw Iran into serious negotiations on its nuclear programme, but this is a lie. Iran is not obstructing the negotiations as the west alleges. It is the US and its western allies which have created the impasse in negotiations by continually insisting that Iran must abandon its legal right to peaceful nuclear energy as a signatory to the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (NPT). Yet the western media and officials present it as a reasonable demand which Iran is not reciprocating and thereby causing a diplomatic problem. This issue shows that the premise for the sanctions is baseless and therefore their application is illegal. Iran is unique in the whole world in that it is not building atomic weapons. It has signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). All its nuclear activities are under the complete supervision of the IAEA and it proposed the idea of ‘Nuclear energy for all, nuclear weapons for none”.

Iran, unlike any other country in the world, has got an additional and more important commitment towards not building atomic weapons. The commitment comes out of a fatwa of Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, who has declared the atomic weapons as haram (forbidden). In Islam, a fatwa is an stringent ruling and for Muslims its sanctity surpasses conventional national and international laws. It should also be added that no religious scholar in the world has ever issued such a progressive and peace-loving  fatwa.

Many of the usual defenders of free speech have yet to come out and defend Iran against what seems like a clear-cut case of censorship and stifling of free speech. Deafening silence and in some cases cooperation with the illegal actions against Iran, including economic sanctions, killing of scientists, sabotage, throttling its media and threats of military attacks, is not a good omen for the whole world.

The writer is Chief of Press at the Iranian Embassy in Delhi

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 16-31 December 2012 on page no. 16

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