NYT: Iran Media Officials Castigate Europe Over Satellite Blackout
The New York Times
Iran Media Officials Castigate Europe Over Satellite Blackout
By THOMAS ERDBRINK
October 17, 2012
TEHRAN — Denouncing what they called a hypocritical Western suppression of free speech, Iranian media officials expressed outrage on Wednesday over a decision by Europe’s largest satellite providers to cease transmission of Iran’s 19 state-operated satellite television and radio channels that broadcast to Europe and parts of the Middle East.
The decision, announced Monday by the French company Eutelsat and the British company Arqiva, came as the European Union expanded its list of sanctions against Iran over its disputed nuclear program. The satellite blackout has deprived the Iranian channels of an audience abroad that represents 200 million households.
The blocked channels include Iran’s flagship English-language Press TV news service and the Arabic-language Al Alam, both among the Islamic republic’s most powerful outlets for disseminating the government’s political and religious viewpoints.
Without mentioning Iran’s censorship of many Western media outlets, the official Iranian reaction on Wednesday was that Europe had attacked its own values of freedom of speech.
“They must understand the time of censorship is over,” said Ezzatollah Zarghami, the head of Iran’s state-run radio and television organization, known as Voice and Vision. “They want to prevent our views from being heard, but they will fail.”
Several of the blocked Iranian channels are now streaming over the Internet.
In July, Mr. Zarghami, who is directly appointed by Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was added to a list of sanctioned individuals by the European Union over what it called “human rights violations” by his channels.
Iran, which says it is fighting a Western cultural invasion, routinely blocks the transmission of the Persian services of Voice of America and the BBC, which it has labeled opposition channels. While satellite receivers and dishes are considered technically illegal in Iran, they are widely available across the country, where people have turned to channels offering Turkish and Latin American soap operas dubbed in Persian.
A spokesman for Eutelsat said that following orders by French authorities in the past, certain individual channels had faced similar measures, but it is the first time that all state television and radio channels of a country had been stopped.
Press TV, a 24-hour English language news channel started in 2007, said there had been “a chorus of harsh criticism” from viewers worldwide against the decision to stop its broadcasts.
The channel, popular among groups of Muslim immigrants in Europe, was blocked from transmitting on another European satellite service, Astra, in September.
A petition on Facebook, which is illegal in Iran, started by the channel, asking to keep Press TV on air in Europe, was liked by around 2,600 people as of Wednesday.
“Our contracts with Eutelsat and Arqiva have been terminated upon the orders of the Council of Europe, the same Europe that won the Nobel Peace Prize last week,” said Hamid Emadi, Press TV’s newsroom director. “We think this suspension is suppressive and illegal; the E.U. wants to decide what its people should see, read and hear.”