In Skies Over Iran, a Battle for Control of Satellite TV

As uprisings rolled across the Middle East this year, Iran stepped up its jamming of the BBC, Voice of America and other Western networks with Persian-language news channels. The move “is intended to prevent Iranian audiences from seeing foreign broadcasts the Iranian government finds objectionable,” five networks protested in a joint statement this month.

“Iran is having it both ways,” said a U.S. State Department official. “While they benefit from the international community’s respect for ‘freedom of expression’ and ‘freedom of the airwaves,’ they deny that same right to their own citizens, aggressively jamming Persian-language broadcasts from other countries.”

Iran’s jamming and use of its broadcast company as a tool of censorship raise a question that divides activists, politicians and business people: Should the country be denied access to Western satellites?

A confidential 14-page report from IRIB’s research and policy center, reviewed by The Wall Street Journal, documents IRIB’s efforts to skew the news. “You are forbidden to broadcast any programs that would cast a doubt in the public’s mind about the government,” the report said. It encouraged programs to “insist that Iran’s nuclear program is for peaceful energy purposes.”

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