Monday, January 09, 2006

Iran Cleric Struggles to Get Alternative Views to TV Screens

Los Angeles Times: Iran Cleric Struggles to Get Alternative Views to TV Screens: "In the back room of a Tehran apartment, a young assistant was busy hanging indigo-blue fabric on yellow walls. A small video camera was set up to face a news anchor's desk, and a big hole in the wall awaited the last-minute delivery of a soundproof glass pane.

The set was thrown together to tape the inaugural broadcast of Saba TV, a station aspiring to provide an alternative voice, in Persian and from Iran, to programming monopolized by hard-liners. From the makeshift studio in the capital, the taped program was ferried to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, to be beamed via satellite into millions of Iranian homes that night. But the show did not go on.

Iranian security agents stopped the producer carrying the tape from getting off the plane in Dubai last month, holding up Saba TV's launch and leading human rights organizations to complain about a crackdown on free expression.

The station is financed by one of the Islamic Republic's oldest revolutionaries, Mehdi Karroubi. In the first round of last year's presidential election, the former parliament speaker trailed hard-line Islamist Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who ultimately won the office, by only about 640,000 votes. Karroubi has charged that the election was rigged and has been quoted as saying he 'took a nap and awoke to see about 1 million votes shifted.'"

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