European satellite provider drops 19 Iranian channels
Eutelsat said the sanctions and a recent decision by a French regulator required the provider to stop transmitting the channels through its Hot Bird group of satellites, affecting viewers across Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
The move reportedly came on the heels of multiple conflicts in recent years between Eutelsat and Iran's government, which has engaged in a pattern of deliberate electronic interference that has affected international broadcasters including the BBC, Deutsche Welle and Voice of America, both in Iran and in neighbouring countries.
IPI Deputy Director Anthony Mills said: “As an organisation dedicated to upholding press freedom around the world, we are concerned by Eutelsat's decision to drop 19 channels. It is vital that in any decisions related to broadcasting the fundamental right to freedom of information not be lost sight of.”
The website Space News reported that Eutelsat on Oct. 4 “made a renewed appeal to international frequency regulators to sanction what it called 'deliberate interference from Iran' of British and American broadcasts into Iranian territory”, and that
Eutelsat has unsuccessfully sought regulatory action against “presumed Iranian government-backed jamming since 2009”.
In a statement posted to its website on Monday, however, the provider said only that it and British media services company Arqiva “jointly agreed to terminate broadcasts…based on reinforced EU Council sanctions”. The statement apparently referred to a March decision by EU foreign ministers to sanction 17 Iranian officials unrelated to the country's controversial nuclear program for human rights abuses, including Iran's minister of information and communication, Reza Taqipour, and the head of IRIB, Ezzatollah Zarghami. Reuters reported in March that the EU's official journal described Taqipour as “one of the top officials in charge of censorship and control of internet activities” and described IRIB as having played a role in broadcasting “forced confessions and show trials”.
Eutelsat also pointed to a decision by France's broadcasting authority, the Conseil Supérieur de l'Audiovisuel, confirming a decision in 2005 that Eutelsat should permanently stop transmitting IRIB's Sahar 1 channel, reportedly due to broadcast of anti-Semitic content.
The Wall Street Journal reported that “Eutelsat is also planning to remove IRIB from other satellites it owns” and had “notified other transmission companies that rent space to IRIB” on other Eutelsat satellites of its decision. However, the newspaper noted: “Other Western satellite companies, including Intelsat SA and Telesat Holdings Inc., still carry IRIB's channels.”
The affected channels reportedly include Press TV, al-Alam, Jam-e-Jam 1 and 2, Sahar 1 and 2, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Quran TV, and the Arabic-language al-Kawthar.
According to Reuters, the Iranian Students' News Agency (ISNA) reported that Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Hosseini said that Eutelsat's decision was illegal and “a clear violation of the West's claim for supporting freedom of speech and information”. Press TV yesterday posted a commentary on its website arguing that “Zionists” were responsible for the decision. The author also accused Eutelsat CEO Michel de Rosen of being “a Mossad thug in corporate attire”.
The recent French decision against Sahar 1 was the third in a series of recent decisions against IRIB channels in Europe. A German court in September reportedly ruled that Press TV could not use satellite services to broadcast into the country. In January, British regulator Ofcom revoked Press TV's licence to broadcast in the United Kingdom.