Iranian state media masquerade as legitimate while violating international law by using physical and psychological torture to extract forced confessions from political prisoners, according to a new report. The US should sanction Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-controlled news wires and go after individuals who were involved in forced confessions, argues the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
"The case for sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran's state-run media" highlights Iran's involvement in "Torture TV" according to Toby Dershowitz, who co-authored the report with Talia Katz in February.
Iran has a state-controlled media arm called the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting. It is a "propaganda organ of the clerical regime," the writers note. IRIB has around 20 television channels and also runs English-language channels such as Press TV. It has a near monopoly on media in Iran. There are other media linked to the IRGC, including Fars News and Tasnim.
Broadcasts of forced confessions are often the last time victims' families see their loved ones alive.
While IRIB attempts to portray Iran abroad as a "moderate and tolerant country," the reality is quite different, the report asserts. One of the ways Iran's media are linked to human rights abuses of the regime is through forced confessions. "For the victims' families, broadcasts of forced confessions are often the last time they see their loved ones alive."
Some Iranians, such as member of parliament Mahmoud Sadeghi, have pushed for a ban on these kinds of confessions. Sadeghi is also known for speaking out about the Iranian regime's failed response to the coronavirus.
The FDD study examines 12 forced confessions, including Iranians who were sentenced to death and executed. These include Kaveh Sharifi, a member of the Kurdish community who stood up against anti-Sunni statements of Iran's Shi'ite preachers. He was arrested in 2009, charged with "waging war against God," and a forced confession was aired in August 2016. He was murdered by the regime after the confession.
Iran has also aired forced confessions of US citizens. Xiyue Wang was arrested in 2016 and a confession aired in 2017. IRIB Channel 2 ran a six-minute program that included his confession, the FDD report notes. "Wang spoke English when he appeared on the program. He did not say anything explicitly self-incriminating," the report notes. He was released in December 2019 and returned to the US. He was one of the lucky ones.
The FDD report argues for US sanctions against Fars News, Tasnim and IRIB.
Iran has abused and tortured women who dare to protest the regime's policies. Maryam and Matin Amiri protested against compulsory laws that force women to cover their hair. They posted videos online in August 2019. They were arrested for not covering their hair, and Fars News aired a 14-minute documentary in which the women confessed. The video noted that "any sort of collaboration or collusion with the enemies of the regime toward committing crimes against national or foreign security is criminalized." They were sentenced to 15 years in prison after periods of solitary confinement and forced confessions.
The FDD report argues for sanctions by the US against Fars News and Tasnim and also sanctions against individuals linked to IRIB. The report also advocates the halt of equipment sales to the broadcaster and also to penalize those who do business with IRIB or its international bureaus.
"The United States should not grant IRIB journalists access to press galleries of the US government," the report concludes.
Seth Frantzman, a Middle East Forum writing fellow, is the author of After ISIS: America, Iran and the Struggle for the Middle East (2019), op-ed editor of The Jerusalem Post, and founder of the Middle East Center for Reporting & Analysis.