Ofcom has revoked the UK licence of the Iranian state controlled channel Press TV. Since 2007 Press TV has been the flagship of Iran's propaganda mission to the West, and now it is gone and that has to be good news for supporters of democracy and human rights everywhere. Enter Geoffrey Alderman.
Writing for the Guardian, Alderman has demanded that Ofcom restore Press TV's licence, complaining that the channel's 'suppression' is some kind of assault on free speech. Well before that one is allowed to go any further we might do well to remind ourselves that in the past Alderman has written unabashedly about the importance of limiting free speech at our universities when it threatens to break the law. So that one really won't wash, because as Ofcom has very clearly demonstrated, Press TV is in breach of broadcasting regulations on account of its editorial content being dictated from outside the United Kingdom, indeed from Tehran no less.
Yet this seems to be of no concern to Alderman. Yes, he acknowledges the controversy surrounding some of Press TV's programming, not least that Press TV was involved carrying out an interview of Maziar Bashari under duress, while the Newsweek Journalist was being held in an Iranian prison. Yet of this Alderman simply remarks 'I challenge you to name any UK-based TV channel that has not made a bad error of broadcasting judgment'.
But hang on a minute. Yes we might occasionally quibble over the BBC's line up of panellists on Question Time or with the sensationalism of Channel 4's Dispatches programme, but that's hardly on a level with forcing an imprisoned journalist to take part in an interview against their will. And there's far more than just this. Press TV is a mouthpiece for an authoritarian regime, where presenters such as George Galloway have openly voiced their support for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, a moment in television history that Galloway can place alongside such other proud moments as his jovial meetings with Saddam's murderous son Udi Hussein, or his impersonation of a cat whilst in Celebrity Big Brother.
For while Alderman may well claim that a "voice of balance has been silenced", one which according to him exposes its following in the Middle East to views 'that they might otherwise never hear', the truth is that Press TV has only ever been concerned with misrepresenting the truth about Iran to a Western audience. Indeed, as we saw in the summer of 2009 when Iranian forces were shooting civilian protestors in the streets, Press TV went to great lengths to cover up the protests and attempted to suggest the CIA might have been behind the shootings.
Despite all of this Geoffrey Alderman still makes an appeal to our Western commitment to the free press, arguing "The suppression of any media outlet anywhere in the world is an affront to freedom of expression and appalling to contemplate". Yet Alderman clearly doesn't live down a well or out in some wilderness where they don't get newspapers, he must know, as we all do, that Iran is a country devoid of freedom of expression, where even Barbie is forbidden because of the subversive messages the toy supposedly carries. No, Alderman is no stranger to what goes on in Iran or indeed Press TV, for as he himself openly admits, he has made appearances on the Television station on a number of occasions. So perhaps this at least goes someway to explaining an otherwise inexplicable affinity with this shameful channel.
Quite what the likes of George Galloway, Lauren Booth, Ken Livingstone and Yvonne Ridley will do with themselves now that Press TV is gone is anyone's guess. But with Iran threatening the straits of Hormuz it is not inconceivable that this country might find itself at war with Iran and the idea that an enemy regime would be allowed to continue to broadcast its propaganda to the nation in the midst of an armed conflict is simply laughable.
Yet in his article Alderman includes a loosely veiled threat regarding the removal of the license from the television station. Alderman claims that this move "will only serve to increase anti-western sentiment in Iran, and can only bolster Islamist feelings of victimhood". After the storming of the British Embassy in Tehran there is hardly much of a case to be made for trying to salvage relations. But what Alderman would appear to be advocating is that we should appease Iran or fear the consequences. Let them force their state sponsored political propaganda on our public night after night, or otherwise they might hate us even more than they already do.
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