At least two Iranian presenters working for the state-run Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) have announced they have quit their jobs, with a third saying she quit some time ago after having told lies on behalf of the state for 13 years.
Gelare Jabbari apologized in an Instagram post, writing: “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.”
Zahra Khatami quit her role at IRIB, saying: “Thank you for accepting me as anchor until today. I will never get back to TV. Forgive me.”
Her fellow anchor, Saba Rad, said: “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.”
The journalists’ statements were made amid an upswell of anger and protests by Iranians in recent days over the downing of a Ukrainian jetliner on Wednesday last week.
Iran acknowledged only on Saturday — in the face of mounting evidence — that members of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) air defense force had shot down the plane by mistake. All 176 people on board were killed.
The crisis is leading even some of the news agencies most closely associated with the regime to start reporting on the street protests, or a least to start addressing the allegations about a potential state cover-up.
The Tehran-based Association of Iranian Journalists said in a statement that the country was witnessing “a funeral for public trust” that was damaging the already shaky reputation of Iran’s official media.
Speaking candidly on BBC Radio Today, Ghanbar Naderi, a commentator on Iran’s state-run Press TV, 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 Qasem Soleimani. It was a rare moment of unity but the IRGC blew it,” he said. “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,” he added.
“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. The situation has become so complex,” the Association of Iranian Journalists said. “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.”
“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,” it said.
Meanwhile, Iran’s judiciary yesterday said that arrests have been made over the downing of the jetliner.
Judiciary spokesman Gholamhossein Esmaili was quoted by Iranian state media as saying that “extensive investigations have taken place and some individuals are arrested.”
He did not say how many individuals had been detained or name them.
Iran’s president also called for a special court to be set up to probe the incident.
“The judiciary should form a special court with a ranking judge and dozens of experts,” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in a speech televised in Iran. “This is not an ordinary case. The entire the world will be watching this court.”
Rouhani called the incident “a painful and unforgivable” mistake and promised that his administration would pursue the case “by all means.”
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