A very good piece by Jody Sabral, formerly of Press TV:
Whichever side you believe, left-wing liberals in the UK who, like Press TV, are quite rightly against another military intervention in the Middle East, are overlooking a significant point in this debate. The standards by which Press TV gathers information and presents it are very different to, I imagine, their own benchmarks. Bahari’s case should act as a stark warning.
Like many print journalists looking for a lucky break into broadcast, I jumped at the chance to report on Turkey and joined the channel in 2007. As an accredited member of the press and Istanbul resident, I was fascinated by the relationship between Turkey and Iran. It was an exciting prospect to be part of a new world which challenged western news agencies’ agenda. I was part of a group of professional journalists and we believed we could influence the channel in a positive way.
However, since the regional uprisings began, pro-democracy movements have been presented as a follow-on to the 1979 Islamic revolution on Press TV, and therefore an Islamic awakening – except of course Iran’s own protests. While it may be true that Islam will play a larger role in the region’s future politics, the regime is using this line as propaganda to promote its agenda. For example, I was asked “urgently” to cover anti-Bahrain regime protests in Istanbul, but told “forget it!” when suggesting coverage of anti-Syrian regime protests.
My four-year relationship ended with Press TV on October 17, mainly because there has been a deliberate attempt to suppress information on the Syrian uprising. It’s one thing to take a position on the news you report, but it’s another to completely ignore a story of interest to the public. It’s well known that Iran politically backs the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, but I was shocked to learn of the extent to which Press TV could be used to propagate propaganda.
After months of ignoring the Syrian opposition, the day finally came when Press TV called me to cover something. As thousands of Syrian refugees poured into Turkey to escape the violence across the border, a newsroom producer called asking whether I could go to the refugee camps close to the Turkish-Syrian border. I asked the producer about Press TV’s editorial position on the story. “We’re not denying there is a crackdown going on in Syria but we believe Turkey is gun running into the country to create a Libyan-style civil war,” he said.
When I asked what our source was, he couldn’t answer, and instead he replied: “Turkey will do anything to get into the EU.” It was a laughable response and I obviously refused to go. The next day, to my horror, I watched as a young Turkish translator with no reporting experience appeared on TV covering one of the world’s most critically watched news stories. This was incredibly irresponsible. The translator, who I had worked with before, had no background in journalism and was easily manipulated while live on air to fit with the narrative coming out of Tehran, which had evolved into a denial of AFP reports that Iranian snipers were firing on Syrian demonstrators. This report went out to millions of viewers. You have to ask, what kind of alternative information is this?
I have now come to realise instead of a newly launched news channel living up to its aspirations, Press TV is slowly being taken over by an ideology that merely defends a specific agenda. Experienced journalists with news training eventually come unstuck with editorial policy, a policy that can never be explained because it changes with Iranian politics, which can be quite schizophrenic.
File under: Andrew Gilligan/Better Late Than Never