Recent news that a Toronto Islamic school's anti-Semitic teaching materials came from an organization directly tied to the Iranian regime has left many Canadians feeling apprehensive.
Rife with blood libels, conspiracy theories and odious comparisons of Jews to Nazis, this "curriculum" was an affront to Canadian values which call for religious tolerance and mutual respect. Instead of teaching kids peace and promoting shared values, these books sought to indoctrinate hate, and fuel conflict.
It's not surprising that Iran would use a local proxy to export its dangerous dogma for western consumption. Domestically in Tehran, Iranian textbooks have instilled students with hatred toward the West, while urging grade-schoolers to become "martyrs" in a global holy war against countries perceived to be the enemies of Islam. In recent years, studies conducted by Freedom House have found that the Islamic Republic's textbooks were teaching children to embrace Islamic supremacism, with preparatory materials encouraging discrimination against women and non-Muslims.
Some Canadians may be surprised to learn that Iran's state-controlled broadcaster, Press TV, has been operating in Canadian cities like Calgary, Toronto, Vancouver and Ottawa for some years now, featuring "news reports" and "reporters" who disseminate radical propaganda and spew anti-Semitic tropes. Without a license from the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), these Press TV journalists presumably write articles hosted on Press TV's website, and file broadcast reports which are uploaded to its YouTube page, and then appended to the related news article.
One Press TV correspondent based in Calgary, Josh Blakeney, is a dedicated 9/11 conspiracy theorist who believes that "9/11 was primarily a Mossad operation." Blakeney also doubles as a staff writer for Veterans Today, which Canadian author Michael Ross described as a "dubious Holocaust-denying journal" which features commentary claiming that "the holy gas chamber is fake."
As to Blakeney's objectivity, he has no problem shilling for the Islamic Republic by saying that Iran is simply "expressing self determination and trying to develop a civilian and peaceful nuclear program." He unabashedly sent out his "condolences" to the family of an assassinated Iranian nuclear scientist and has reported that the "Zionist tail (is) wagging the American dog... AIPAC and the Israel lobby pretty much dictate Middle East policy..."
In April, Blakeney produced an on-the-street "report" from Calgary claiming that the Canadian government was supporting terrorist groups in Syria. As to Israel, Blakeney claims the Jewish state commits "genocide." This from a reporter who described Mohamed Elmasry as a "prestigious" scholar, a man who in 2004 notoriously proclaimed that any Israeli Jew over the age of 18 was a legitimate target for terror because they are "not innocent."
Just two weeks ago, Blakeney interviewed Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson in a media scrum on the topic of Canada's hate speech laws. Hanson was likely unfamiliar with the background of this reporter and the lack of bonafides of this news organization. Blakeney subsequently included Hanson's comment in a report which claimed that Israel was a "criminal state" and that Canada had "Orwellian 'hate speech' laws" that have only been useful when "pro-Israel lobbyists" get involved.
In 2009, Canadian journalist Terry Glavin described a "nasty" encounter he had with another Press TV correspondent, Zahra Jamal, who has reported from Vancouver and Toronto. Glavin had refused to be interviewed by Jamal, citing Iran's rape and murder of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi in 2003, only to be threatened by Jamal herself.
Maclean's reporter Michael Petrou also shared his opinion of Jamal in an article for the magazine's website. Petrou wrote: "I can't think of any reason why a real journalist would work for the mouthpiece of a regime that imprisons and murders her journalistic colleagues in Iran, but if Jamal has one, I'd invite her to post it below." Press TV's website currently hosts a 2011 report that Jamal conducted on the streets of Vancouver where she referred to the creation of Israel as the "Nakba," translated from Arabic as "catastrophe," in which she claimed that Israelis have "poisoned" Palestinian water wells. Not to be outdone, another Press TV correspondent in Ottawa, Hamed Mousavi, described Israel as a war monger.
As the propaganda arm of the Islamic Republic, Press TV has a long history of promoting Holocaust denial, giving platforms to neo-Nazis, and perpetuating a radical anti-Israel and anti-western agenda.
Described by UN officials as an unreliable source that "exaggerates and openly fabricates reports," Press TV deliberately attempted to suppress information on the Syrian uprising, claimed that the murder of Iranian protester Neda Sultan was a western conspiracy, and was accused of faking the death of 1,370 Somalis by U.S. drones.
Then there's the case of Maziar Bahari, the Canadian-Iranian Newsweek journalist, who was arrested in Iran while reporting on the country's 2009 post-election protests. Press TV interviewed Bahari in Iran's Evin prison with Bahari forced to read answers prepared by his interrogators. Ofcom, Britain's media regulatory body, cited this coerced interview as just one of many reasons as to why it revoked Press TV's license to broadcast in the UK.
We recently marked World Press Freedom Day. Iran not surprisingly has been described by Reporters Without Borders as the "world's biggest prison for journalists," listed by the Committee to Protect Journalist's as the fourth worst country when it comes to censorship. Despite this, these Press TV journalists operating in various cities throughout Canada, work for a regime that muzzles, murders, and censors media personnel. A country which possesses one of the world's worst human rights records, led by a leader whose state-sanctioned incitement to genocide and procurement of weapons of mass destruction have made Iran a pariah in the international community.
Canada's citizenry and political establishment should take heed and not confer any credibility to the Iranian regime's propaganda tool by cooperating with it. Instead, relegate Press TV to the fringes where it rightfully belongs.