Iranian regime’s media empire in the Middle East

Dec 18th, 2017

Hassan Dai, 4 December 2017

More than 200 radio and satellite TV stations, together with tens of newspapers and hundreds of websites constitute Iran’s media empire across the Islamic world, predominantly in the Middle Eastern countries. A large number of these media outlets are affiliated with Iran’s proxies and are under the direct control of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force. This propaganda machine promotes the Iranian regime’s fundamentalist ideology and plays a pivotal role in Iran’s multi-pronged strategy to dominate the region.

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In mid-October 2017, Ali Askari, director of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) travelled to Lebanon to visit the headquarters of IRIB’s Arabic language TV stations in Beirut which broadcast via satellite across the Middle East. He also visited Hezbollah’s Al Manar and Al Mayadeen TV stations where he vowed more support to these networks. Askari met with Hassan Nasrallah, the Secretary-General of Hezbollah and “congratulated him for recent military victories of Iran-led axis of resistance in Iraq and Syria. Nasrallah underlined that media outlets of the Axis have played a major role in the victories.”

The Lebanese based as well as more than 200 additional radio and TV stations, together with tens of newspapers and hundreds of websites constitute Iran’s media empire across the Islamic world, predominantly in the Middle Eastern countries. They promote the Iranian regime’s fundamentalist ideology and its hegemonic policies in the region. A large number of these media outlets are affiliated with Iran’s proxy militias and pro-Tehran political organizations and are under the direct control of Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.  This propaganda machine plays a pivotal role in Iran’s multi-pronged strategy to dominate in the Middle East.

Askari’s visit to Lebanon took place at a time when IRGC’s Quds Force and its proxy militias have made significant military gains in the region by taking control of strategic border crossings between Syria and Iraq, providing Iran with a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea. In this context, Iran aims to expand its network of television and radio stations and adopt its media empire to the new balance of power in the region.

 

The Islamic Radio and Television Union

In the spring of 2000, Hezbollah’s Al-Manar TV begun broadcasting across the Middle East via satellite and two years later, Iranian state-run TV launched its Arabic language satellite television channel, Al-Alam.

Following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein by the Coalition Forces in 2003, Iranian proxy militias and political organizations mushroomed in Iraq and a new generation of radio and TV stations, operated by these proxies and financed and supported by Tehran emerged in the country to advance the pro-Tehran agenda, particularly within the Shia community in Iraq.

In 2007, Iran created the “The Islamic Radio and Television Union (IRTVU)” in the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance . This organization is designed to provide Union members with technical support and homogenize their ideological and political message. IRTVU currently has more than 200 radio and TV stations, the most powerful among them is Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) with its extensive financial and technical resources. IRIB operates several foreign language satellite TV channels, including the English Press TV, Arabic Al-Alam and Hispan TV in Spanish language.

Hezbollah’s Al Manar and Al Mayadeen (launched in 2012) are the powerful members of IRTVU, providing staff and technical support to other Arabic Language TVs of the “axis of resistance“ specially the Beirut based networks such as Al-Masirah and Al-Sahat affiliated with pro-Tehran Houthi rebels in Yemen or  Al-Nabaa which broadcasts anti-Saudi programs.

IRTVU currently has tens of radios and satellite television stations in Iraq affiliated with Iran proxies. The most prominent among them are: Al-Ghadeer for the Badr organization, Etejah for Kata’ib Hezbollah, Al-Ahd for Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, Al-Forat affiliated with Ammar Hakim and Al-Nujaba for Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba. There are several TV stations for different factions of the “The Islamic Dawa Party” such as Al-Masar TV, Beladi TV and Afagh TV. Some of these networks have specific stations for different cities like Baghdad, Karbala or Basra. Many of these Iraqi TVs are directly run by Quds Force operatives in Iraq and receive technical and staff support from Hezbollah’s networks.

IRTVU has several satellite TV stations operating in the Palestinian territories including “Quds” TV and “The Palestine Today” which are under the Iranian control and the very powerful Al-Aghsa TV station belonging to Hamas, which receives technical and financial support from Tehran.

The Union has also a large number of radio and TV stations which broadcast religious programs. Iran’s Al-Kawthar is the leading network among them.

IRTVU holds annual conferences in Iran with the latest event taking place in the city of Mashhad. During each annual event, there is also a media market for films, documentaries and other media products which have been pre-approved by the IRTVU and are labeled as Halal Media.

During IRTVU’s annual conference in 2015 in Tehran, the participants were received by the Iran Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. In his speech, he emphasized the importance of their activities and declared: “Today, (global) arrogance has created a great media empire. They distort and cover up news and they tell lies. This way, they promote their policies… We should do something in the face of this dangerous empire and this large media mafia that is in the hands of American and Zionist capitalists and cartels.”

The media empire created by Tehran is fast becoming a dominant player in shaping public opinion in the region. Far from being ordinary news outlets, these television and radio stations promote sectarian and violent policies across the region. They have supported the slaughter of Syrian people by Assad and its Iranian allies, helped Hezbollah to tighten its grip on Lebanon and assisted Tehran proxies in dominating Iraq. They spread anti-Western and anti-Semitic hatred throughout the Islamic world and fuel terrorism and violence. They are the propaganda arm of the Quds Force and its proxy militias, most of whom are considered terrorist organizations.

 

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