In a rather stunning development, at least two anchors with an Iranian state-owned media outlet have quit their jobs, and a third former media figure publicly apologized for lying to the Iranian people for many years, Fox News reported.
The resignations and apology stem from the controversy surrounding the shoot-down of a Ukrainian passenger jet by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) in Iran, which Tehran denied for several days before eventually admitting that they’d mistakenly downed the airliner with a missile, killing all 176 people on board.
Iranian TV anchors quit
The Guardian reported that two anchors for the state-run Iranian media outlet IRIB announced that they quit their jobs in the wake of government dishonesty over the Ukrainian airliner incident. A third reporter, who had already previously resigned, issued a public apology for the “lies” she’d told on behalf of the regime for “13 years” in an Instagram post that has since been deleted.
Former TV news anchor Gelare Jabbari reportedly wrote in the now-deleted post: “It was very hard for me to believe that our people have been killed. Forgive me that I got to know this late. And forgive me for the 13 years I told you lies.”
Meanwhile, former IRIB anchor Zahra Khatami said in a statement: “Thank you for accepting me as anchor until today. I will never get back to TV. Forgive me.” She was joined in leaving the network by fellow anchor Saba Rad, who said in a statement: “Thank you for your support in all years of my career. I announce that after 21 years working in radio and TV, I cannot continue my work in the media. I cannot.”
Lies eroded “public trust”
This is incredibly significant news coming out of a nation where the media is tightly controlled and indeed repressed by the ruling regime. It is emblematic of the substantial erosion of “public trust” between the Iranian people and the state-controlled media, something that has now been openly admitted by the Tehran-based Association of Iranian Journalists.
In a surprisingly candid interview with the BBC, state-run Press TV anchor Ghanbar Naderi said: “There is little trust in the government and people want more freedom. The lies they said about the shooting down of the aeroplane [have] lost public trust. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps know it very well.
“Millions and millions took [to] the streets following the assassination of Qassem Suleimani. It was a rare moment of unity but the IRGC blew it,” he added. “As a journalist, you need to be able to sleep at night. I will never ever distance myself from the truth. This a great nation. It has made many mistakes that are unacceptable. If the IRGC shot down a civilian airplane, I have no choice but to condemn it.”
Standing up to regime’s oppression
Perhaps even more astonishing was an equally candid statement released by the Association of Iranian Journalists that was harshly critical of the regime that controls it. The association said: “The publication of false information has had a severe impact on public confidence and public opinion, and more than ever shook the media’s shaky position.
“We lie loudest when we lie to ourselves; and Islamic Republic of Iran state television employees acknowledge that their credibility has been lost. Unaware that the credibility of this media and most of the domestic media had long since vanished,” the group continued.
The association added: “It should be noted, however, that other media outlets objected to the situation, but the Islamic Republic of Iran’s state television favored it. This incident showed that people cannot trust official data and journalists should try to fill this gap as much as possible.”
The significance of the resignations and bravely critical statements from Iranian media figures can’t be understated and potentially signal a turning point in Iran in which the oppressive regime can no longer count on the media to serve as unquestioning mouthpieces for dishonest propaganda. Hopefully, the journalists who boldly stood up to call out the regime for its lies will not suffer any severe repercussions for their honesty.