5 June: Rosewater film screening + Q&A with Maziar Bahari

In June 2009, London-based journalist Maziar Bahari returns to his homeland of Iran to report for the BBC on the elections, where, finding himself embroiled in the maelstrom of unrest that follows Ahmadinejad’s victory declaration, he documents the protests from the streets of Tehran. The morning after, he is arrested by the Revolutionary Guard on a charge of treason and incarcerated for 118 days. Based on real events, ROSEWATER achieves a superb balance between the plight of the individual and the wider, ethical and political implications of the story.

This film screening will be followed by a discussion exploring the threats to, and limits of, our right to freedom of expression featuring Maziar Bahari alongside the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre and David Heinemann of Index on Censorship.

When: Friday 5 June 2015, 7.45pm
Where: Broadway Cinema, Nottingham (map)
Tickets: £8. Book here.

Presented in collaboration with the University of Nottingham Human Rights Law Centre and IranWire’s ‘Journalism is not a crime’.

RELATED: Maziar Bahari’s keynote speech at the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Awards 2010

Ofcom revokes Press TV’s UK licence

Ofcom has revoked the UK licence of Iranian broadcaster Press TV. In December Press TV was fined £100,000 for broadcasting a 2009 interview with journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari, who was then being held in Evin Prison. Press TV has failed to pay the fine. Ofcom also concluded that the station, which featured shows presented by figures such as George Galloway, Yvonne Ridley and Ken Livingstone, was controlled from Tehran, a breach of UK broadcasting regulations.

Maziar Bahari on Press TV Ofcom fine

After four months of deliberation, Ofcom has fined Press TV £100,000 for broadcasting its interview with the journalist and filmmaker Maziar Bahari in 2009. In October, Press TV was reporting that it was in danger of losing its licence, bizarrely blaming the threat on the royal family. Instead, just as the UK faces a crisis in its diplomatic relations with Iran, following the attack on the Tehran embassy this week, it receives a hefty fine. Considering the serious nature of its breach and the feverish circumstances, it seems a relatively mild punishment. The BBC was fined £150,000 after the Brand-Ross debacle.

The broadcaster faced sanctions following its broadcast while Maziar Bahari was being held in Evin Prison. Bahari had been detained for 118 days following the elections that summer, which he was reporting for Newsweek. He was held in solitary confinement, subjected to beatings and forced confessions, and accused of spying and threatened with the death penalty. Index on Censorship took part in an international campaign for his release.

The interview was filmed in prison, under extreme duress and without Maziar Bahari’s consent. Nor were the circumstances in which the interview was conducted made clear to viewers. In July, Ofcom judged Press TV’s conduct to be “serious and deliberate” breaches of its code, describing the broadcast as an “unwarranted infringement of Mr Bahari’s privacy”. The regulator observed that Press TV had failed to obtain Maziar Bahari’s consent “while he was in a sensitive situation and vulnerable state”.

“If this was just a personal issue I would not have bothered pursuing it,” Maziar Bahari told Index. “But it is something that happens to other people on a daily basis. I have friends who were arrested in Iran and they are forced to make televised confessions on different channels. Unfortunately we cannot lodge a complaint against other channels of the Iranian government, so that’s what motivated me to do it.”

Maziar Bahari had hoped that Ofcom would deprive Press TV of its licence to broadcast on Sky cable. However he believes that the fine, along with Ofcom’s demand that Press TV’s head office in Tehran, rather than London, should be in control of its licence to broadcast, will have a significant impact on its future in the UK.

“I think Press TV will be under a lot of pressure,” he said. “It will either be shut down or will have to modify its programmes.”

The Communications Act 2003 requires that a licence is held by the body that is in effective control of the TV service. While Ofcom was deliberating on sanctions, evidence came to light that it was the Tehran office that was in effective control of broadcasts rather than the London-based body that holds the Ofcom licence. Press TV now has 35 days to bring the service back into compliance by applying to transfer the licence to the correct body.

“Press TV always said ‘it’s not us, we’re just the programme makers’,” says Maziar Bahari. ‘This move denies them that excuse.”

Press TV could face fine for Bahari prison interview

Iran’s state-run English language channel Press TV could face a hefty fine from UK TV regulators after it broadcast a prison interview with jailed journalist Maziar Bahari.

Ofcom found that the station had breached Bahari’s rights by broadcasting an interview in which he was forced to make a “televised statement about the role of the western media in the post-presidential election demonstrations”. Bahari was detained the summer of 2009, in the aftermath of that year’s Green Revolution. He was released in October after a global campaign.