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Iran State TV Suspends Controversial Programs After Complaints By Rouhani Admin

IRIB's controversial commentators Mohammad Sadegh Koushki (R) and Nader Talebzadeh (C), in a Jahanara program, produced by IRIB's Ofogh TV.
IRIB's controversial commentators Mohammad Sadegh Koushki (R) and Nader Talebzadeh (C), in a Jahanara program, produced by IRIB's Ofogh TV.

In what pro-Rouhani Entekhab news website described as a “rare event in several decades" Iran's state TV suspended three live talk shows known for their criticism of the Rouhani administration's policies.

‌‌Meanwhile, Mashreghnews, a website close to Iranian intelligence organs reported that these programs, namely Jahanara, Soraya and Asraneh, will resume broadcasting but will no longer be live.

The suspension was enforced after Rouhani’s representative at the state TV's supervisory board, Hesamoddin Ashna, published a letter he sent to the chairman, hardliner Gholamhossein Mohseni Ezhei, complaining about bias in the talk shows.

Jahanara was by far the most talked-about program among the three for its controversial interviews and comments by the interviewees. The program's supporters criticized the suspension and attributed it to pressures by Ashna and the Rouhani administration.

However, in one of the programs, an interviewee said that anyone who does not believe in the party line and the official version of ongoing events should leave the country. The program which was broadcast on the Ofogh channel attracted intense criticism.

According to Entekhab, the Rouhani administration had repeatedly complained about the contents of these programs particularly "Jahanara Program" on the Ofogh Channel which is close to revolutionary Guards (IRGC).

Social media users have published copies of several letters by Ashna to Ezhei, including this one, which is his latest letter. Ashna warned that talk shows are using fake news as fact.

In another letter, Ashna complained that talk shows are blaming the Rouhani administration for the protests that followed the gas price hike in November.

Entekhab quoted yet another letter by Ashna as having said: "The Ofogh Channel and Jahanara program complicate the situation further by inviting experts and guests that insult the administration with the aim of taking revenge from rival political factions."

The website wrote that "The state TV should be devoid of factional influence, but it would be a big mistake to silence any individual or media outlet that criticizes the government." It also called for changes in the way talk shows are being produced.

The state TV which operates under the supervision of Ayatollah Khamenei gets its budget from the administration and its one-sided stances and programming has been criticized by Rouhani and two of his predecessors, Presidents Ahmadinejad and Khatami. However, regardless of attributing the suspensions to correspondences at the Supervisory Board, the board has no record of influencing decision-making at the state TV, officially called the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting Organization, IRIB.

The website also opined that the state TV is unlikely to accept a complaint by Ashna or the administration and the decision to pull the three programs may be made by the state TV's own managers following widespread criticism of Jahanara's content.

In another development, the producers of Jahanara have said on social media that they are planning to present their program on Internet-based video-sharing platforms. Thanks to their connections with the IRGC, they are certainly capable of doing that, but if they produce their program outside the state TV, its contents are likely to become more radical and even more critical of the Rouhani administration.

Perhaps it is with that in mind that Mashreghnews suggests a change in the production and presentation of the three programs, particularly Jahanara within the frameworks of the state TV rather than taking them to the lawless realm of social media.