THE HAGUE, 27 Dec. (IPS) In a surprise move, the Dutch Parliament approved last week a 15 million Euros (20 million US Dollars) budget to create a new television service in Farsi (Persian) language.
The bill aims at filling the “void of free press in Iran”, explained Ms Farah Karimi, the 44 years-old Iranian-born member of the Parliament from the minority Green Party.
The bill aims at filling the “void of free press in Iran”, explained Ms Farah Karimi, 44, the Iranian born Member of Parliament.
Since three years ago, the Iranian Judiciary, controlled directly by Ayatollah Ali Khameneh’i, the orthodox leader of the Islamic Republic has shut down more than 120 publications and arrested or silenced dozens of leading journalists, while many others decided to emigrate.
The bill became law despite opposition from the Dutch Foreign Affairs Ministry, fearing of negative impact on good and growing relationship between both Holland and the European Union with Iran.
“There are many governments that have their own radios and televisions in different languages without being their official voices”, she told the Persian service of the BBC, pointing out that the new network would be totally independent of the government, with the budget coming from taxpayers, “like the BBC”, she added.
A political activist, Ms. Karimi, who lost a sister “and many friends” after the Islamic Revolution of 1979, immigrated to Germany in 1983 before landing in Holland a year latter.
According to informed sources, the service would be run by professional Iranian journalists who, because of the clampdown of the freedom of the press and expression in theocratic Iran, have fled Iran, taking refuge in several European countries, with some of them living in Holland.
However, though there are several radios and televisions networks in European countries in various languages or representing religious or ethnic communities, but this is the first time that a member of the European Union provides Iranian dissidents such an influential mass media.
“The project is not political, but concentrating more on human rights, freedom and democracy”, observed Ms. Karimi, a member of the Dutch Parliament since 1998, stressing that the new television would not be against the Iranian regime.
This is a television made and run by Iranians and for the Iranians.
This was confirmed by Mr. Sina Mottalebi, a young Iranian dissident based in Amsterdam, saying that the new television, expected to go on steam sometime in the coming year of 2005, “would in any form look like the Iranian media operating from the United States”.
“This is not the Voice of America that speaks for the government of the United States, but a television made and run by Iranians and for the Iranians”, Ms. Karimi stated in an interview with the Toronto-based Persian weekly “Shahrvand”.
Though almost everyone expects a strong reaction from the Iranians to the project, however, Ms. Karimi sees “no reason” for such a possible attitude from Tehran, insisting that the project has “nothing to do with the (Dutch) government”.
“The creation of a television network defending human rights in a democratic nation like Holland can be a great help to the cause of democracy and democratic process in Iran”, said Mr. Reza Allameh Zadeh, a dissident intellectual also based in that country, adding that in his view, the fear is that “the same that the project was voted, it could be scrapped at another time under another government”. ENDS TELEVISION 271204