The razor blade of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) is usually sheathed in the run-up to elections, especially presidential elections. During this period, interviews and documentaries on all kinds of topics are usually broadcast, as well as films promoting the various candidates generally freely draw on major issues of the day.
This time, however, the IRIB has changed tack. Several candidates have now demanded to know why their electoral campaign videos have either been censored by the IRIB, or not allowed to be broadcast at all.
Mohsen Rezaei: They Told me to Remove the Public Interviews
Mohsen Rezaei, the Revolutionary Guards’ candidate for the presidential election and current secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council, took to Twitter to complain that IRIB officials had told him to remove his previous interviews from the internet in order to broadcast his campaign video.
My election documentary, which was delivered on the radio last night, was not allowed to be broadcast due to narrow-mindedness,” he claimed. “We had a revolution to hear the voice of the people.”
Rezaei also used the hashtag #People's_Voice: a phrase once most commonly associated with Amad News, a dissident Telegram channel run by Ruhollah Zam, who has prosecuted and hanged in Iran last year.
Rezaei also promised he would publish the video on social media himself. This finally prompted the IRIB to air the film after all, with Rezaei then adding in another tweet: "We respect the procedures despite their shortcomings."
The initial non-broadcast was described by Rezaei as a matter of taste. “I hope that the clashes of taste will end,” he said, “and that candidates will be able to present their plans in a transparent and non-discriminatory atmosphere to the electorate of Iran.”
Abdolnasser Hemmati: They Told me to Edit my Video
Abdolnasser Hemmati, the former governor of the Central Bank of Iran, has also recently spoken out about censorship of his campaign video by the IRIB. His own documentary apparently featured Iranian women talking frankly about politics, and according to Hemmati he had refused to edit them out on being asked to by the national broadcaster.
"They told me to delete it, and I said I was against censorship," Hemmati wrote on Twitter after the exchange.
He added, pointedly: “If some people consider me to be a creator of the status quo, then they are the status quo themselves.” He added that he had said: "The girls should express their views without an intermediary.”
Hemmati also positioned the IRIB’s non-broadcasting of his personal publicity as an affront to people’s rights. "We should not just shout about the rights of the people... I will try to enforce the rights of the people," he wrote.
The traditional pre-election debate has also been postponed for two days by the IRIB. Hemmati took issue with this too, describing the competition as “unequal”.
Alireza Zakani: Parts of my Program were Not Deemed Appropriate
Conservative candidate Alireza Zakani has also highlighted that some of his recorded speeches were not broadcast on the IRIB.
Malek Shariati, a spokesperson for Zakani's campaign, said he reserved the right to complain to Iran’s electoral commission and would be broadcasting another program at an agreed tim
Shariati accused the national media of discriminating against Zakani, adding: “Parts of the recorded program were not considered appropriate and could not be scheduled for correction."
The IRIB has taken a different approach toward publicizing hardline frontrunner Ebrahim Raeesi, however. In a recent interview with Iran’s current chief justice, an IRIB presenter described his would-be tenure as the “inauguration of the people’s government”, in a clear departure from any pretense of neutrality.
In a report about media coverage of the election published on May 29, an Etemad newspaper reporter wrote: “The use of this keyword shows the IRIB is confident of a victory for Raeesi in the election.”