London, Asharq Al-Awsat – As the power struggle in Iran intensifies ahead of next year’s presidential election, cyberspace is emerging as a key battleground with much of the fighting done through satellite television. In that context the launching of a new opposition channel, broadcast from Europe, may not be great news.
However, the new channel, named “Raha TV” claims to be different by serving as a link between the “reformist” faction in Tehran and opposition groups that work for regime change in Iran.
Raha means “unfettered” and its founder Amir Hossein Jahanshahi claims that it will be different from the dozens of other channels run by Iranian expatriates in Europe and North America and beamed to Iran.
Scheduled to start broadcasting next week, Raha TV will be different from other exile channels, not to mention Persian-language TV channels run by the British and American governments, in at least four domains.
First, it claims to be entirely financed by Jahanshahi with no support from political groups and/or foreign governments.
Secondly, Raha TV will not run any commercials or programmes sponsored by business concerns.
Thirdly, the new TV channel will be open to all major Iranian political parties and groups.
Finally, Raha TV will not be entirely political, offering documentaries, movies and programmes on art, culture and sports.
Although slated to go beyond politics, Raha TV is likely to pose “a major challenge to the Iranian government”, according to Jahanshahi. This is because the new TV aims at offering professional news programmes and debates involving a variety of views on major issues.
A venture capitalist and property developer, Jahanshahi made much of his fortune in Spain and France before beginning to show a political interest in Iran almost a decade ago. After the disputed presidential election in 2009, Jahanshahi founded the Green Wave Movement for Freedom, attracting several figures from former President Muhammad Khatami’s “reformist” group. One member of that group, Ali Asghar Ramezanpoor, a former Deputy Minister for Islamic Orientation, has been recruited to manage Raha TV.
Having fled Iran, Ramezanpoor worked for the BBC’s Persian programme, along with a number of other members of the Khatami administration, notably former Minister for Islamic Orientation Atallah Mohajerani.
On the political front, Jahanshahi has recruited a number of figures representing a range of ideologies. These include Dr. Mehrdad Khonsari, a diplomat before the revolution, and Dr. Ali Reza Nurizadeh, a poet and columnist for the London Persian-language weekly Kayhan and an anti-mullah militant of long standing.
According to Jahanshahi, Raha will provide Iranians inside and outside Iran with “news and analysis they can trust.”