Following the disruption of 14 TV and 13 Radio channels in Iran by supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) and the Resistance Units on January 27, Hesamoddin Ashena, a former deputy Intelligence Minister and Hassan Rouhani’s advisor tweeted, “The [People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK)] can do whatever one can imagine.”
During the disruption, regular programs were cut. The photos of Masoud Rajavi, the Iranian Resistance’s Leader, and Maryam Rajavi, the President-elect of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), were broadcast, with the message of “Hail to Rajavi,” being aired as well. A crossed-out image of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei was also shown on numerous state TV networks with chants of “Death to Khamenei” overheard. Part of Masoud Rajavi’s speech from June 1996 was also aired during the broadcast, with his voice heard during the excerpt in which he said, “Today, we are still proud of the time that we declared death to the reactionaries. We stood by it, as we still reiterate, ‘Overthrow, overthrow, overthrow’.”
The regime’s authorities were in shock that the MEK had breached the Iranian regime’s mullahs’ harrowing dominance over and the suffocation of the Iranian people.
The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) organization is one of the most important regime’s pillars for blasting propaganda, for which it is loathed by Iranians and is the target of constant chants in protests. For more than four decades, the regime has used this apparatus to broadcast forced confessions, spread false and manipulated information, demonize dissidents, and justify gross and systematic human rights violations.
At 3pm local time, the state-run TV Channel One, Quran, and several Radio Channels were hacked.
"Hail to Rajavi" and "Death to Khamenei" slogans were heard. pic.twitter.com/G2JEmfYutP
— Iran News Update (@IranNewsUpdate1) January 27, 2022
By targeting it directly, the MEK broke the aura of the regime’s invincibility, especially because the IRIB, according to officials, had many layers of security protections and safeguards against any breach both from the outside and inside. Since 1979, when the ayatollahs seized power in Iran, they precisely followed the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels, who once said, “If you tell a lie big enough and repeat it often enough and the whole world will believe it.”
Iranian Authorities’ Response to IRIB Breach
The Disruption was precise and well-organized, and in response to it, Iranian authorities took various approaches. The Fars news agency, affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), mocked the attack claiming that the “MEK’s last futile attempts would result in nothing.”
It quoted ‘expert’ Mohammad Deymehkar, as saying on January 27, “Excellent developments for the Iranian people on the way internationally, particularly in the economic field, which have forced the MEK to practice such futile attempts such as the ten-second hack of TV stations.”
On the other hand, in an interview with the IRINN TV channel, on January 27, the IRIB development and technology deputy Reza Alidadi referred to the event as a complex undertaking, saying, “This incident was not a simple task; it was an extremely complex job. It was most probably done by those who possess this technology, who used backdoors and exploited features that they had installed on the system and destroy infrastructures.”
The Eghtesad Online website on January 27, referenced a previous warning from the former IRIB chief Mohammad Sarafraz that followed the hack of surveillance cameras in Evin Prison last year. Sarafraz warned, “This infiltration is a hack and may occur at other institutions. Officials must solve the issue rather than being silent or denying it, as was the case with stealing secret nuclear documents.”
In the same article, Eghtesad Online asked, “It seems that the former IRIB chief’s warnings have turned into reality. Now, it should be questioned whether this event in such a giant organization with a multi-billion budget was a hack or infiltration and sabotage?”
With the attack, confusing officials throughout the regime, the Jahat Press website discounted the cyberattack theory. It wrote on January 27, “Networks are not broadcast through the internet, and other communications are not based on the internet. Therefore, we should consider the possibility of human infiltration and investigate this scenario.”
The Titrebartar news agency on January 27, showed its concerns about the MEK’s influence and popularity in Iranian society. It quoted sociologist Abbas Mansouri as saying, “In every country, Radio and TV stations are critical sites. However, we witnessed disruption in several Radio and TV stations today at 3 pm. Primary estimation attributed this disruption to the MEK. It does not matter that detailed research has been carried out to discover the method of infiltration in this ‘absolute isolated’ system. However, which one of the current officials is ready to ensure that such events would not occur anywhere else?”
Regime Authorities Threaten Revenge
To project power in the face of the blow they have received, several authorities threatened the MEK with revenge. During an interview with the Mehr news agency on January 27, an outlet linked closely to the Ministry of Intelligence and Security (MOIS), Alireza Salimi, a member of the regime’s Parliament (Majlis) said, “Despite their various political tastes, the ‘people of Iran’ hate the MEK.”
He added, “MEK members’ act in hacking the IRIB would not remain unanswered. A while ago, we witnessed a cyberattack on our petrol station system. These incidents show that the passive defense should be taken seriously in our country.”
The judiciary’s human rights deputy, Kazem Gharib-Abadi on January 31, said, “France protects criminals and terrorists. France is indebted to Iran due to multiple violations of the Iranian people’s rights, particularly regarding the MEK.”
Hassan Nowruzi, a member of the Majlis Judicial Commission, on January 31, stated, “The MEK should wait for a fatal blow. This was not the MEK’s first ‘futile’ action. Iran will respond to these actions seriously and appropriately soon. Other governments and nations would deadly strike the MEK.”
He added, “Since the 1979 revolution, we engaged in a full-scale fight against the MEK on different fronts, including in media, economic, social, psychological, security, and cultural areas. The MEK’s recent action is one of these battles. They tried to harm the state and ‘people’ in all these fights.”
MP Nowruzi has already had a personal run-in with MEK supporters following his admission in an interview that he was involved with the regime’s bloody crackdown on protesters during the November 2019 uprising. At the time of the interview, he was quoted saying, “Who would prosecute us? The Aban Tribunal? I shot rioters in the streets.”
A few days later, MEK supporters, and Resistance Units, set his office ablaze in the south Tehran Robat Karim district, which widely echoed across the globe and compelled Nowruzi to backtrack.
In a nutshell, for more than four decades, the IRIB has been a crucial part of the religious dictatorship’s oppressive and propaganda apparatus. The regime did its best to disappoint millions of freedom-loving people and demonize them with baseless claims. However, a ten-second disruption shocked and demoralized the ruling tyranny.
The MEK action, on the other hand, served to inspire the Iranian people and demonstrate the power of the organized resistance and the effectiveness of its endeavor to unseat the mullahs and liberate the Iranian people from their oppressive yoke.