Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Iran's Satellite TV Wars

Small Media, a London-based NGO, looks at the suppression of satellite dishes in Iran: 
In a closed society like Iran, where the government maintains a tight grip over the media and all modes of communication, satellite television broadcasts from outside the country carry particular significance for both the authorities and the Iranian public. The Iranian government sees satellite channels as a Western front in the "soft war" being waged against their rule, a "weapon" intent on undermining the country's religious and cultural beliefs. Steven Barraclough writes:
"As described by Ayatollah Khamenei, the country's constitutional leader, Iranian broadcasting...is 'the mouthpiece of the Islamic system.' Its duty is to stand at the 'forefront' against 'a well-organized and obvious offensive [which] has been launched by [the] enemies of Islam against divine principles with an aim of promoting secularism, undisciplined behavior and corruption among the people.'
In an interview with the conservative news agency Alef News in 2011, the head of Iran's National Security Forces, Esmaeil Ahmadi Moghadam, reinforced this point with specific reference to Voice of America and the BBC: 
VOA and the BBC are the intelligence arms of America and the CIA...collaborating with these channels is not just cooperating with a media organization, it is working in cooperation with the intelligence services of the enemy and any cooperation with them will be monitored by the Ministry of Intelligence and the National Security Forces of Iran.
I still sometimes encounter people who think bans on satellite dishes or other communications mechanisms are about the technology.  They're not.  They are about the technology as a gateway for sinful ideas, much the same way card games are sometimes seen as a gateway to gambling.  As with most Islamists, the Iranian leadership sees the West not just as a political threat, but a cultural one, as well.  In fact, this is part of the weight carried by the "Great Satan" label.  Satan in Islamic thought is the ultimate tempter, and sometimes explained as temptation personified.

Beyond the issue of jamming, however, I'm told the campaign against physical satellite dishes has an economic motive.  Specifically, the people responsible for policing moral crimes get to pocket the associated fines, and so there's an incentive to make such campaigns only "occasional," then cracking down and raking in thee big bucks.



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11:07 AM  

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