Although it is illegal to own satellite receiver equipment, millions of Iranian households use it to receive banned television networks. When equipment is confiscated by regime authorities, it is often replaced.
Along with the recipients of independent and foreign information, the broadcasters themselves have been attacked by he Iranian regime. It is reported that the repression of journalists has escalated over the last few years, coinciding with greater suppression of activists and minority groups. This makes dissenting news outlets more important than ever, as they not only contrast Iran’s attempt to control the media, but also expose the protests and suppressive activities that go unreported in state-run media.
Iran National Television (INTV), or Simay Azadi, as it is known in Farsi, will begin its 22nd public campaign to raise funds for its operations on Friday, November 3rd. INTV is a voice for the Iranian people, and is available to those households that defy the regime’s ban on satellite television equipment.
Just as the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) have been harassed, interrogated, and reportedly tortured and even executed, so have contributors to INTV for their journalist activities. In fact, violence against INTV journalists is conjoined with violence against PMOI activists, because INTV covers popular protests, which the Iranian regime sees as an affront.
INTV has taken on such controversial topics as exposing the conditions of Iranian prisons, in particular the political wards, and the network has become an outlet for Iranian political prisoners to voice their continued opposition to the regime.
INTV has grown in popularity among Iranians who believe in a democratic future for their country. Its previous pledge drive ran for 40 consecutive hours in mid-January, and thousands of people, not only in Iran, but throughout the world, contributed to its efforts. Contributions ranged from just a few dollars to many thousands, which displays the socioeconomic diversity of INTV’s audience.
The pledge drive also highlighted the people’s conflict with the regime over attempts to restrict access to information and domestic communication. On several social media outlets including Facebook, Twitter, and Telegram, as well the network’s 84 phone lines, viewers and supporters continued the dialogue regarding INTV’s mission. Callers praised INTV as “the voice of the voiceless”.
They cited specific topics of reporting as reasons for their support of INTV, which included the escalation in human rights abuses throughout the country, as well as the enforced public silence over the past crimes of the regime, such as the execution of 30,000 political prisoners in the summer of 1988. INTV has played a major role in the campaign for full public disclosure of the details behind the massacre that targeted the PMOI and all organized resistance to the new regime.
This past year has seen a dramatic increase in public dialogue regarding that incident, following the release of an audio recording of Ayatollah Ali Hossein Montazeri criticizing his then-fellow regime officials over their role in the killings. While the government attempted to suppress the recording, INTV circulated the extensive calls for justice for the victims, and exposed the locations of mass graves of the victims. INTV also reported on the protests that emerged, and the regime’s disdainful response. Most shocking was Mostafa Pourmohammadi, the Justice Minister during Hassan Rouhani’s first term as president, who said that he was “proud” to have helped carry out “God’s command” of death for the MEK.
With renewed public awareness of this issue, another disconnect between the Iranian government and its people has arisen. INTV’s contributors and its volunteer staff are prepared to play an important role in the months and years to come in exposing the people’s antipathy to the regime in spite of the risks that may accompany this work. This risk is present for all those who attempt to convey information to the public about the growth and progress of the Iranian Resistance movement and popular dissent.
Escalation of governmental crackdown will not silence the dissidence of the Iranian people, especially when there is still an outlet through which they can voice their dissent against the regime, and also see the results of their work as activists.
INTV’s viewership is growing, and it is hopeful that it will soon be able to guarantee its position as an outlet for another year, with the contributions from its 22nd pledge drive.