The Listening Post

Mapping Iran’s factionalised media

The president’s chief media guru is behind bars and Ahmadinejad is barred from visiting him, so what is afoot in Iran?

On Listening Post this week: Mapping the politics of Iran’s factionalised media. Plus, embedded journalism: the US military recruits the media to send a message to Tehran.

When a president’s chief media guru is locked behind bars – and the president is barred from visiting him – something must be afoot. Ali Akbar Javanfekr is Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s top media strategist and the head of the IRNA, a news agency loyal to him. He was jailed recently after criticising the policies of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

Last week, Ahmadinejad tried to visit Javanfekr in prison but was stopped in his tracks by the courts. It may not have got much coverage outside Iran – but it was big news there because his imprisonment and the legal case against him speaks volumes about the power struggle taking place behind the scenes in Iranian politics.

Our contributors this week speak from different positions in this highly politicised media story: Mohammed Marandi, a professor of politics at Tehran University; Pooneh Ghoddoosi, a presenter at BBC Persian in London; Ali Alfoneh, the founder of Iran Tracker at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington DC; and Ali Asghar Ramezanpoor, the director at the newly launched Iranian TV outlet Raha in London.

Listening Post Newsbytes: In Sri Lanka, a newspaper whose editor received a death threat from a government minister has apologised to the government for reporting the threat; in Egypt, journalist Sonia Dridi is sexually assaulted in Tahrir Square; in the UK, the BBC has come under heavy fire from parliamentarians over its handling of child abuse allegations against one of its most famous faces, the late Jimmy Savile.

For our feature this week: It has come to be known as ’embedding’. Reporters, photographers, film crews travelling with troops to cover stories of conflict. For the journalist there is a trade-off. Embedding will get you closer to the front line but often, it is at the price of editorial independence. And in the same way journalists use militaries to get news stories, militaries use journalists to get their story out. Those are two agendas on a collision course. We saw an example of that last month, when navies from the US and more than 30 other countries completed the largest joint-exercises the Middle East has ever seen, a dress rehearsal for the hunting and destroying of mines in the Strait of Hormuz. The Pentagon wanted to flex some muscle and it wanted the media there to make sure that that message was delivered to Iran. Al Jazeera correspondent Cal Perry was on board, along with cameraman Bradley McLennan. They had one eye on the naval exercises, the other on the media story.

We are going to leave you this week with one last political spoof before US election day comes. This time, the parody is not of the candidates, it is of the media. The addiction to conflict; the zero tolerance to sound bites longer than six seconds and the aversion to actually shedding light on the important issues – it is all there in our Web Video of the Week, courtesy of the people at We hope you enjoy the show.


Listening Post can be seen each week at the following times GMT: Saturday: 0830, 1930; Sunday: 1430; Monday: 0430.

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