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Rouhani Attacks State Broadcaster Controlled By Khamenei

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a meeting with senior officials of the ministry of economy, in Tehran, January 8, 2018
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during a meeting with senior officials of the ministry of economy, in Tehran, January 8, 2018

President Hassan Rouhani has called on Iran’s state-run TV and other media outlets to stop spreading rumors and portraying the country’s situation in a bad light in the aftermath of recent protests.

Speaking at a cabinet session on January 10, Rouhani did not miss the chance to air his dissatisfaction with the state-run radio and television network IRIB, which operates under Khamenei’s direct supervision.

Unhappy with the network that has largely blamed Rouhani’s government along with “foreign hostile governments” for the bloody protests across the country, he said, “The media, including state TV, should stay vigilant and refrain from disseminating rumors and defamation.”

The recent uprising in Iran that broke out on December 28 in the city of Mashhad, the holiest Shi’ite city in Iran, was initially based on protests against poverty, skyrocketing prices and unemployment but swiftly turned into an anti-Islamic establishment movement, spreading to many cities, including the capital, Tehran.

On January 8, Rouhani had emphasized that the protests were triggered by social and political demands and not only economic hardship.

In a meeting with his cabinet ministers on January 10, Rouhani echoed the same remarks, saying, “Economic problems are not created overnight; the reason behind them is mainly mismanagement in the past.”

“It would be a misrepresentation [of developments] and also an insult to Iranian people to say they only had economic demands,” Rouhani was cited as saying by the Tasmin news agency, run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.

This was not the first time Rouhani and his allies were critical of the IRIB.

Earlier, Rouhani’s first deputy, Eshaq Jahangiri, had openly accused the IRIB of siding with the anti-Rouhani conservative camp and close allies of Khamenei.

Referring to the protests, which were not initially covered by the IRIB, Jahangiri said, “I proposed directly talking to the people through the IRIB, but they raised technical excuses.”

“The IRIB should change its style and attitude. It is unacceptable to see the IRIB dominated by a handful of extremists,” he said on January 8. “The national media should serve all the people and even air the voice of protesters.”

The IRIB, however, gave a different version of events. “We exclusively allocated Negah-i Yek [a TV show] to Jahangiri, but he did not show up and we were forced to run the previous week’s show again,” said Alireza Barazesh, director of the IRIB’s Channel One.

“We are ready to host the first deputy president at any time and on any show,” he said.

The head of the IRIB is directly appointed by Khamenei and is accountable only to him.

However, during the same speech Rouhani cautiously highlighted Khamenei’s role in triggering recent uprising all over Iran, saying, “When the supreme leader humbly considers himself the addressee of the people's rightful demands, this means the authorities must acknowledge the problems and exercise unity and empathy to disappoint the enemy from their conspiracies."