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In the Hands of Interrogators

Iran’s Fars News agency is among the media outlets that was mobilized by the Islamic Passdaran Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) following the tenth presidential election to support the Ahmadinejad administration and combat the green movement.  In January 2008 when the former Fars president Mehdi Fazayeli, who was close to the international affairs secretary at the National Security Council Javad Vaeedi under Ali Larijani, was replaced by an unknown face, Hamidreza Moghaddamfar (who is known at the IRGC as “Hajj Hamid Naseri”), Fars workers could not imagine that the news agency would turn into the interrogators’ main outlet in 2009.

Reporters and Photographers Fired

Moghaddamfar, whose resume carries only the two titles of “media expert” and “strategic management PhD student,” dismissed more than 20 reporter, photographers and staff members soon after taking charge of Fars news agency.  He replaced the dismissed staff with unknown faces from amongst student Basij propaganda activists and titled them “reporters” and “analysts.”  

One of the dismissed Fars reporters, Yousef Asadi, wrote in his personal blog, “A Village Correspondent’s Blog,” about the dismissal of Fars reporters and staff members following the appointment of the new president: “After the arrival of the new manager, the editor of the political division and many other hard-working Fars reporters including myself suddenly realized that we had been fired.  When speaking with the new president, I heard that he had said, ‘No one has the right to protest here, even you, who are my friend.’”

Since his dismissal, this reporter has written articles about attempts to secure a “return to work permit” from legal channels, but then a day after the presidential elections he completely stopped writing about Fars and the internal disputes in the state-affiliated news agency.

Ahmadinejad’s Victory Announcement the Night Before the Election
One night before the election, Fars news agency quoted a fabricated “public opinion” center to have predicted Ahmadinejad’s victory with more than 60 percent of the vote.  The report was disconcerting to Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi’s campaigns regarding the integrity of the election results.  On the evening of June 12, the results of the same opinion poll were announced by the head of the government election body as the official final election results.

Fars news agency’s report on the night before the election is referenced in the report published by Mir-Hossein Mousavi’s Committee to Preserve Election Integrity, headed by Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, as “an instance of the election’s fabricated nature.”

Participation in the Confessions Project

One informed source tells Rooz about the news agency’s role in confronting detained political prisoners. “Within three days after the million-people rally on June 15, Amir Hossein Mahdavi, member of the Mujahedin of Islamic Revolution’s central committee, along with Hamed Talebi and Abbas Kolahdouz, two reporters from Fars’ political desk, visited the office of ISNA news agency and held a press conference in which Amir Hossein Mahdavi criticized Mousavi and identified himself as having been “misled.”  After the first confession project, which involved Amir Hossein Mahdavi, ended, he left ISNA’s office for an unknown destination along with the two reporters, who acted as his interrogators, and this evidence reveals the role of Fars agents in the confession extraction project.”

During the July sham trials, Fars reporters and photographers were the only “media representatives” allowed into the court room to interview detainees.  For this reason, photographs of detained political prisoners were published for the first time by Fars news agency.  The photographs were taken by unknown photographers at the news agency.

It is interesting that during the sham trials of hundreds of political activists, carried out under the direction of then Tehran’s prosecutor Saeed Mortazavi, Fars reporters and photographers were present and active everywhere, and continued to publish fabricated interviews as detainee confessions after the trials, which on two occasions were denied by families of political prisoners.

Setting the Stage for Mousavi and Karoubi’s Trial

This news agency, which is referred to by many activists as the “media headquarters of the coup,” started a new project known as “public request for trial of rebellion leaders”  following the coup government’s failure in the confession project.

In this connection, this news agency reported in the last weeks that a complaint signed by 144 Majlis lawmakers was sent to the head of the judiciary.  The claim was previously made by Hamidreza Rasaei, current Majlis lawmaker and one of the most radical supporters of the coup government, who currently serves as an advisor to the Fars news agency’s president.

One political activist spoke with Rooz about the news agency’s efforts to support the coup government. “Fars only carries the name of a ‘news agency’; while it has been turned into a fabrication room to produce false news and analyses against the green movement and its leaders,” he said.

Another political activist who was released from prison recently revealed that the news agency’s reports are used during interrogation.  However, he asked Rooz not to publish the information he had gathered about the news agency during his detention for security reasons.

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