Press TV bosses, including news director Hamid Reza Emadi sexually harassed former news anchor Sheena Shirani for years, the young female reporter revealed on Thursday, February 4.
Just two days later, Emadi and Payam Afshar, a studio manager at Press TV, were suspended. Emadi has since removed his Facebook account.
Shirani made the information public after she published a series of messages that she had received from Emadi on her Facebook page and the voice recording of a phone conversation between her and Emadi on the Facebook page for news site Rooz Online.
Shirani, 32, who is divorced with a son, first became an employee at Press TV in 2007, where she worked as an editor, producer and news presenter up to mid-January 2016.
Shirani has now reportedly left Iran with her son. According to her friends, she has chosen not to disclose her whereabouts.
In the phone messages that Shirani posted online, Emadi repeats on several occasions how he has consistently helped Shirani at Press TV and how he has always done his best to support her. “I always stood by you,” he says in one message, an idea that Shirani strongly contests in her responses.
“You couldn’t have expected me to deal with being sexually harassed on a daily basis forever,” she says. “I lived through hell. I’m not going to live that life anymore.”
In one of the text messages, Emadi takes a selfie and sends a message that says “Hot Boss,” which he immediately follows with a second text that says, “Right.. the pervert motherfucker that I am.”
But it is the voice recording of a conversation between Shirani and Emadi that is most shocking. Throughout the exchange, which lasts a little more than 10 minutes, Mr Emadi repeatedly begs his former employee to go to his house and have sex with him. He first asks her to visit him for five minutes, then later asks for two minutes, adding a slang term in Persian that translates as “my penis is exploding.”
Emadi’s presents his line of reasoning as very simple: “I’ve always helped you. I’ve always been there for you. Whenever you wanted something, I’ve helped you. I’m not asking you to kill someone. You can help me as a friend. You can have sex with me as a friend.”
Then as the conversation goes on and Shirani continues to refuse him, Emadi becomes increasingly impatient and persistent with his requests, once again using the fact that he “defended” Shirani at work to justify why she should sexually appease him.
Throughout the conversation, Shirani continues to rebut his demands. “I come to work for peace and security. To make a living. You can’t expect me to help with this particular [sexual] need because I’ve been friendly with you. I just want to work with you and consider you as a colleague. This is sexually objectifying me.”
The conversation abruptly ends after Emadi says, “Will you perform oral sex on me?” Again Emadi uses a colloquial expression.
Since Shirani published the clip and the text messages online, Emadi has refuted all the allegations against him, claiming that both the recording and the messages are fakes.
In a post published in Persian online, Emadi said the recording was fabricated and that anyone who was involved in sharing it online would pay the price as he intended to get Interpol – the International Criminal Police Organisation — involved in the scandal.
Emadi ignored IranWIre’s requests for an interview about the incident. The head of PR at Press TV, Hamid Reza Babai, responded, saying, "I listened to the clip but I’d prefer to not to make a comment about it.”
However, an anonymous former Press TV reporter who worked with Shirani agreed to comment.
“I can confirm the authenticity of the recording. It’s not a fake. I know both of them and both their voices and it’s definitely them,” says the source. “She’s a respectable woman but she was vulnerable as a single mother with a son and he used this against her. She also needed the money. Sadly, the harassment has been going on for years.”
“Emadi is a manipulative person and he takes advantage of people,” the former Press TV employee says. “He did it to me and he’s done it to her. Working with him as a boss is simply terrible.”
This is not the first time that Hamid Reza Emadi has made news headlines. In March 2013, the European Union blacklisted him and his boss Mohammad Sarafraz, who is head of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting company (IRIB), for their role in broadcasting the forced confessions of political prisoners.
According to the Official Journal of the European Union, they worked “…with the Iranian security services and prosecutors to broadcast forced confessions of detainees, including that of Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari.” Bahari is the founder and editor-in-chief of IranWire.
For this, the EU ruled to impose a travel ban and asset freeze on the two men.
Then in May 2015, Emadi and Sarafraz lodged an official complaint at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for their inclusion on the European Union's sanctioned people of Iran list. The ECJ rejected the complaint in December 2015.
Read the full transcript of the telephone conversation between Shirani and Emadi