LET’S TALK ABOUT PRESS TV
It’s the perfect smear:
Jeremy Corbyn presented a number of Television programmes for Press TV, the Iranian state propaganda channel!
This is a station that has been accused of broadcasting the torture of a journalist!!
Even better, there’s pictures to go with this story: grainy footage of a dishevelled and slightly startled looking Corbyn, hunched over a lectern, as if participating in some home made Jihadist propaganda video.
No doubt a picture is already forming in your mind as it did in mine: Corbyn taking a secret flight to Tehran, there to be greeted, flattered and manipulated by top Iranian dignitaries into broadcasting their vile propaganda. Quite a coup for these Eastern puppetmasters, to have a tame British MP acting as their mouthpiece on their own TV Station!
If like me you are an aficianado of Corbyn smears you will not be surprised to learn that that the reality differs very, very significantly from this alarming picture. At first glance one of the most damning of the accusations laid against him, the slightest scrutiny reveals it to be one of the most pathetic. This quickly becomes apparent even from reading the story as relayed by a source hostile to Corbyn such as Business Insider.
First of all there was no flight to Tehran, secret or otherwise. Contrary to the impression given by sensationalist headlines and hostile Tweeters, Press TV broadcasts openly from the UK. It has a dedicated UK offshoot and bureau here, as it does in several other Western countries, as do several other foreign TV stations such as Al-Jazeera and Russia Today. Press TV is simply the Iranian National Broadcaster, their version of the BBC. Like the BBC it has offices and local broadcasting operations around the world and its British programming was aimed at British viewers, not Iranian ones.
The BBC, in fact, returns the favour — operating what we’re told is the very popular BBC Persian Television. This broadcasts across Iran, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and is funded by the British Foreign Office. No doubt, in light of this information, we can expect to see Blairites queuing up to condemn the BBC and FCO for their shameless collusion with a rogue state. No?
From its convenient location in London, Press TV has over the years hired a number of British luminaries as freelance presenters or guests on panel shows. Just have a look at this list of Western-hating terrorist sympathisers:
Telegraph Journalist Andrew Gilligan.
Ex Tory MP Derek Conway
Ex Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik
Lauren Booth, the Journalist and, er, sister of Cherie Blair
LBC Radio Host Nick Ferrari
Like Corbyn these people were offered a gig at a TV station in London and took it. No doubt in many cases, certainly Corbyn’s, they saw it as an opportunity for cultural exchange and bridge building. At no point were any of them ensconced with the Ayatollah in Tehran cackling over their joint plans for world domination. Nor did they receive any money from “a foreign government” but from a broadcaster who had employed them as a Presenter, in the same way the BBC World Service does in other countries.
Oh yes and Press TV’s UK Broadcasts were transmitted via Sky’s satellites so I guess we’ll have to add Rupert Murdoch to our list of West-hating terrorist sympathisers.
You can check out Corbyn’s Press TV appearances on YouTube, although if you’re expecting to see him spitting out a stream of deranged Jihadist propaganda you’re in for a disappointment. What you will see is Corbyn calmly chairing a series of call-in shows and panel discussions with pundits and academics on issues pertaining to the Middle East. Or sometimes merely appearing as a guest himself on one of those panel shows. In total there were 4 appearances over the course of 3 years.
But hang on, didn’t I say above that the Station had been accused of broadcasting the torture of a journalist? Well, that is the way many commentators and tweeters disingenuously phrase it. In reality no footage of torture was broadcast by Press TV. It’s a national TV Station, not a shock site on the Dark Internet. I would go so far as to say there’s something a little racist in this assumption that Television in Iran consists of footage of people being tortured.
What is true is that Press TV aired a 10 second section of a press conference confession made by journalist Maziar Bahari. Bahari had been covering the controversial 2009 Iranian General Election and was arrested by their Security Services. While detained he was repeatedly “slapped, punched and kicked” by his captors until he made his televised confession of “filming illegal demonstrations”, after which he was released.
Note that it was the Security Services that carried out this vile interrogation, not Press TV. Press TV broadcast the confession, but as the Iranian National broadcaster of course they were going to. Bahari states that the Press TV staff filming his confession “cannot have been unaware it was made under duress” but whether they were or they weren’t, filming it does not necessarily imply approval. Furthermore, the filming was carried out by the station’s Tehran Bureau, not the one in London, which broadcast a 10 second excerpt of the confession. Corbyn, who made 4 freelance appearances on Press TV in common with many other British personalities, is several stages removed from the entire incident. A parallel might be to condemn, say, a Japanese personality who freelanced for the BBC World Service some time after the Jimmy Saville cover-up.
The whole “Press TV” thing is often used by that sub section of Corbyn’s opponents who take the line that he is in fact rather a nasty man, not the kindly old Gent of legend. Sadly for them, a kindly old Gent is exactly what you see if you watch footage of his Press TV appearances.