The conflict between the head of Iranian TV and President Hassan Rouhani first surfaced when the two sides clashed in early February over the choice of which journalist would conduct an interview with the president. Tensions escalated yesterday when Hesamodin Ashna, Rouhani’s media adviser and representative to the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) Supervisory Council, accused the council of acting against the administration.
“It seems that this council is not a supervisory council for IRIB but a council from IRIB for supervising the presidency,” Ashna said. He also accused the head of IRIB’s Supervisory Council, Bijan Nobaveh, of viewing the bi-monthly council meetings as nothing more than a “formality” where they get together and “chat.”
The former head of IRIB, Mohammad Hashemi Rafsanjani, also criticized the body. He said former Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini did not want IRIB “to be at the discretion of one party,” and that IRIB today is “outside of that framework in some of its programs.” The head of IRIB, currently Ezatollah Zarghami, is chosen directly by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Nobaveh responded today against the criticism leveled against himself and the council by saying that Ashna is “uninformed” about the group’s work. He demanded that Ashna apologize and also resign as Rouhani’s representative to the council. Ashna reiterated today that his comments were only meant to stress that the council’s “supervisory capabilities” had been taken away.
According to Reformist newspaper Etemaad, “The two sides, for now, do not intend to back down.”
Recently, IRIB was criticized for mocking Rouhani’s campaign prop during a children’s show. During the elections, Rouhani used a large key to signify that he would open opportunities. The children’s show host held a large key in his hand with the word “lie” written on it.
Reformist newspapers have sided with the president so overwhelmingly that hard-line website Jahan News accused them of conducting a “coordinated attack” against the head of Iranian TV.
“The Reformist newspapers Shargh, Arman, Ghanoon, Ebtekar and Aftab-e Yazd, in an action that was like the chain press of the Reformist era, targeted the national media,” read the Jahan article, under the headline, “The coordinated attack of the chain [press] against seda-o sima.”
In Iran, the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is often referred to by its shortened Persian name seda-o sima, which means “voice and visage.” The term “chain press” became popular during Reformist President Mohammad Khatami’s era and is a disparaging categorization of Reformist newspapers.
Jahan News published a compilation of the newspapers’ front pages on its website.
Ebtekar’s headline was “Whose voice is our national media?” Aftab-e Yazd’s headline was a quote from conservative parliament member Ali Motahhari that read, “Supervising the IRIB is difficult.” Etemad’s front page read, “Rouhani’s advisor’s revelations against Zarghami.” Ghanoon’s frontpage headline was “IRIB, whose voice is it?”