NCRI - It is illegal to own satellite receiver equipment in Iran, where the government exerts tremendous control over the flow of information. Nevertheless, just as countless Iranians use virtual proxy networks to evade restrictions on the government and social media, millions of Iranian households also use satellite equipment to tune into banned television networks. Many even go so far as to re-acquire the necessary equipment after it has been confiscated by regime authorities in large-scale crackdowns.
The Iranian regime is well-known for attacking not only the recipients of independent and foreign information but also the broadcasters themselves. In fact, it has been widely reported that the Iranian crackdown on free minded journalists has been escalating in recent years, along with a broader crackdown on activists and minority groups. These conditions make the work of dissenting news outlets more important than ever, as they counter Iran’s attempt to control the media and also expose both the popular protests and the suppressive activities that would otherwise go unreported.
One such outlet, known in Farsi as Simay Azadi and in English as Iran National Television, will start its 22nd public campaign on Friday, November 3 to raise funds for its operations. INTV is viewed by many of those households that have defied the regime’s ban on satellite television equipment.
INTV is uniquely a voice for the Iranian people.
Far beyond harassment and interrogation, contributors to INTV have been tortured and even executed for their journalist activities, just as Iranian activists have been executed solely for supporting the main opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
Violence against INTV journalists goes hand-in-hand with violence against PMOI activists, because one of INTV’s most prominent affronts to the Iranian regime is its coverage of popular protests. Over the years, the network has also helped to expose to conditions of Iranian prisons and particularly their political wards, and INTV has become a chosen outlet for Iranian political prisoners to voice their continued opposition to the clerical regime.
Such projects have contributed to the growing popularity of INTV among Iranians with an eye toward a democratic future for their country. The network’s previous pledge drive took place for 40 consecutive hours in mid-January and thousands of people in Iran and throughout the world called in and contributed to its efforts. As in previous fundraising efforts, individual contributions ranged from just a few dollars to many thousands, underscoring the socioeconomic diversity of the network’s audience.
Their contributions and their continued viewership of the network highlighted the ongoing defiance of bans on dissident and foreign media. And the pledge drive itself also helped to highlight the continuation of the people’s conflict with the regime over other attempts to restrict access to information and domestic communication. Viewers and supporters kept up dialogue over the mission of INTV on several social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram, as well as reaching the network directly via 84 phone lines.
Callers praised INTV as “the voice of the voiceless” and cited a number of specific topics of reporting as reasons for their support of INTV as a primary alternative to state media and propaganda. These included the apparent escalation in human rights abuses throughout the country, as well as the enforced public silence over the past crimes of the clerical regime. INTV has played a major role in the campaign for full public disclosure of the details behind the execution of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988, with which the regime sought to destroy the PMOI and all organized resistance to the fledgling theocracy.
Public dialogue about that incident increased dramatically over the past year, in the wake of the release of an audio recording of Ayatollah Ali Hossein Montazeri criticizing his then-fellow regime officials over their role in the killings. In the face of government efforts to suppress the recording, INTV helped to circulate the growing calls for justice for the victims and exposing mass graves of the victims while also reporting on the protests that emerged out of that and the regime’s cavalier response to the information. Mostafa Pourmohammadi, who was Justice Minister during Hassan Rouhani’s first term as president, said that he was “proud” to have helped carry out “God’s command” of death for the MEK.
The renewed public awareness of this issue has given another outlet to the already well-established disconnect between the Iranian government and its people. INTV stands to fill an important role in the months and years to come as it shows the depths of the people’s antipathy to the regime while also exposing the various reasons why that antipathy is justified.
This is a role that INTV’s contributors and its volunteer staff are prepared to play in spite of the severe risks that accompany their work. All independent voices in the media face serious risks as a result of simply doing their jobs. But when it comes to Iran, for no one is this truer than those who unabashedly convey information to the public about the growth and progress of the Iranian Resistance movement and popular dissent.
The government’s crackdown will continue to escalate, but recent experience has shown that this cannot be expected to silence the dissent of the Iranian people, least of all when there is still an outlet through which they can voice their dissent against the clerical regime while also seeing the fruits of their labor as activists and dissidents.
With its viewership growing and its 22nd pledge drive about to begin, INTV is hopeful that it will soon be able to guarantee its position as such an outlet for another year.