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17 Oct, 2012 11:35

Iran lashes out at EU for blocking its satellite channels

Iran lashes out at EU for blocking its satellite channels

Tehran slammed the EU over gagging of 19 Iranian satellite channels, coinciding with the latest and the toughest round of sanctions yet. EU officials shift blame on satellite providers which in turn say they were ordered to break contracts with Iran.

French Eutelsat and British Arqiva satellite providers have been forced by the EU officials to stop broadcasting the Iranian state TV channels on Monday. The news outlets that were blocked included including al-Alam, Islamic Republic of Iran News Network, Jam-e-Jam 1 and 2, the Arabic-language al-Kawthar, Sahar 1 and 2, Press TV and Quran TV.“We terminated the contracts because it was the order of the European Commission. We have to follow it,” Karen Badalov, area management of Eutelsat SA, told Press TV. Press TV says that in a separate statement emailed to them, Arqiva said that the decision was made by the EU Council. European Council insists the satellite operators have acted on their own accord, as within the EU there is no regulation that prohibits the broadcast of satellite channels.“I have to tell you that this is a decision of Eutelsat and Arqiva and you have to ask them, it is their decision,” Maya Kosyanchich, spokeswoman for EU Foreign Policy Chief Catherine Ashton, told Press TV.“The EU on Monday has adopted new restrictive measures against Iran, but they focus on finance, energy, trade and transport, not telecommunication. And do not contain elements which could have forced Eutelsat to take such a step,” Kosyanchich insisted.Press TV launched a Facebook petition to protect the news channel across Europe.Mohammed Sarafraz, vice-president of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), has slammed the decision to stop broadcasting the 19 channels as “political”.He told the Business Recorder that “the contract was still valid, and Eutelsat broke the contract between us unilaterally and without legal justification," adding that IRIB lawyers were planning to launch a formal complaint.The final denial to broadcast came after months of jamming of Iranian channels by European satellite operators and shortly after the European Union imposed latest sanctions against Iran including an embargo on the import of the country’s natural gas.

Iran under all-round attack

Independent filmmaker and media analyst Danny Schechter told RT the EU simply doesn't want to hear a contrary point of view.“I find it very troubling that television channels have been removed from the air, suppressing Iran’s ability to tell its side of the story,” he said.“Iran is under attack not only with the oil sanctions, but also financial sanctions. There is a whole campaign underway to discredit its proposals and the negotiations coming up on nuclear issues even before Iran gets to make those proposals, a kind of pre-emptive strike. And now this,” Schechter poses.“Just a few days after the EU receives a Nobel Peace Prize, one of its first acts seems to be to suppress the freedom of press and freedom of speech,” he recalls, calling the move of European satellite operators political.“It takes us one step closer to war,” Schechter concluded.

‘Snuffing out’ alternative view on Iran

Speaking to RT, political analyst Chris Bamberry said that the EU’s move is basically a major blow to freedom of speech.RT: The fresh sanctions don’t target the media, so why this ban on Iranian broadcasters, and why now?Chris Bamberry: I think you don’t have to be a conspiracy theorist to think that by banning Iranian media, 19 TV and radio stations from access to Europe, it does look like you further step to the military intervention against Iran, given it happens on the same day that the EU imposes further sanctions on Iran, and against a background of a continuing military buildup by America with its British and French allies in the Persian Gulf. And the siren calls from Tel Aviv for America’s action against Iran. Therefore, it seems to me a further ramping-up of this, and the decision to withdraw access was taken not just by private satellite companies but, as the Iranians were told, by the European Council of Foreign Ministers, at the highest level – perhaps by the European Commission. The European parliament has no powers to overturn this decision. It seems to me a significant attack on freedom of speech. What they’re trying to do is snuff out an alternative view on Iran being offered to people in Europe, as opposed to a view that is force-fed, which is that Iran is a terror state, which is out of control and a danger. And of course we’re also going to be denied the fact that Iran is offering concessions and compromising all the nuclear issue. Not quite as it’s painted by the West.RT: So why is it being ignored that Iran is offering concessions, that they’re actually saying, “We will be flexible now in these nuclear talks.” You talk about the military buildup, about the sanctions continuing – why are all those gestures being ignored then?CB: I think that Americans have got a regime change in Iran in their minds. I don’t think that they will take any military action due to the presidential election, but I don’t think we can underestimate the hatred the Americans have for the Islamic Republic of Iran, as a consequence of the 1979 revolution, the overthrow of the Shah, their key ally in the Middle East; the seizure of the embassy, the CIA headquarters was in Tehran, and the hostage crisis was a humiliation for the Americans. So I think you can’t underestimate the determination of the Americans to get revenge on Iran. The constant buildup going ahead in the Persian Gulf is an excellent way for this to be happening!RT: You’d think the impetus of that regime change come from within the country. And yet we’ve seen anti-American and pro-nuclear rallies in Iran lately. Experts say there are traditional pro-Western middle class turning on to Washington. So this is where we could see it all backfiring, isn’t it?CB: I think it happens because the West, as usual, do not look into their own history. And look at how Iranians see the West. In 1953, there was a coup orchestrated by the British to overthrow a democratically-elected government in Iran, which had the temerity to nationalize the Anglo-American oil companies in the country. They remember the Shah of Iran was installed by the British and Americans. They remember the torture and the repression under the Shah, [who] was backed by the British and Americans. They remember that the Shah was encouraged to have a nuclear program! It was allowed under the Shah, but not now. And the Iranian nationalism is that Iranians don’t like being told that they can’t do something by former colonial powers. And therefore, it has become a touchstone for national pride. Even among those who aren’t enthusiastic about Ahmadinejad regime.