Inside Press TV

Here is a fascinating piece by a former employee of Press TV, that makes it clear quite how close to Khamenei the management of the station is.

There are a number of instructive vignettes concerning life at Press TV. You will enjoy reading about the horror of channel director, Mohammad Sarafraz, at finding photograph of a Press TV employee in a bikini on a Facebook page. His response: to circulate a photograph of the employee within Press TV, while issuing an injunction against ‘friending’ other employees. There’s another nice one about Press TV’s problem with employees downloading porn from the internet via its unfiltered access.

More depressing is this. You will remember that, a couple of months ago, Seaumas Milne shamefully claimed that the protestors against Ahmadinejad were just “Tehran’s gilded youth“. Well, according to the report, the staff of Press TV is composed of Tehran’s rich kids.

And they don’t really care that much about Iranian democracy:

Yet Press TV is startlingly lax for an Iranian governmental workplace. Although the front-desk receptionist and a legion of secretaries sit behind their desks in black chadors (some spend downtime reading the Quran), other female staffers can wear casually draped shawls instead of the face-framing maqna’e required in all state-affiliated offices. These women, who test the limits of this luxury with scarves of bright fuchsia and slinky silk, can often be found gazing at Vogue and Vanity Fair on their monitors.

Who makes up the staff? The bulk are native Iranians who majored in English, the top-tier are Iranian-hyphenates raised abroad and foreign nationals. Many are under 30 and few had prior experience in TV or journalism before signing on. Management typically consists of veteran IRIB producers, while some owe their senior positions to family ties (e.g. the three Mr. Tahami’s).

Interestingly, after the June 2009 presidential election, a handful of anchors and photographers quit their jobs, but the staff largely stayed put. They did not have any problem churning out reports that labeled protesters as “terrorist groups” or purported that Neda Agha Soltan was shot by an MKO assassin instead of being shot by the Basij. Indeed, the majority of the American-Iranian and British-Iranian staffers championed Press TV’s coverage as a counterbalance to what they considered biased warping of the story by Western media. The Khamenei credo, as well as Iranian knee-jerk conspiracy thinking, was embossed in their minds after two years of being immersed in it professionally.

Since before the revolution, the public has reserved a special name for those in the employ of the state’s ideological apparatus: mozdoor, or mercenary. But graduates of UPenn, SOAS, and other top schools – usually the children of affluent families – cannot be written off as just money-hungry. It must be something about walking under that sign day after day, something in the air inside … and in rare cases, the prospect of graduating to the Ministry of Intelligence.

That’s life in an authoritarian regime, sadly.