Iran protesters find support in L.A. media outlets
Inside a television studio in a suburban Los Angeles strip mall, Farsi-speaking producers pore over hundreds of photos and video clips spirited out of Iran by protesters disputing the result of the recent presidential election.world Updated: Jun 18, 2009 09:18 IST
Inside a television studio in a suburban Los Angeles strip mall, Farsi-speaking producers pore over hundreds of photos and video clips spirited out of Iran by protesters disputing the result of the recent presidential election.
Channel One TV is one of several Farsi-language TV and radio outlets in the city that are bringing news, images and the voices of political turmoil in Iran to a worldwide audience, including Iranians subjected to a government-imposed media blackout in their own country.
Those satellite TV and radio stations have long served as fixtures in the social fabric of L.A.'s well-heeled Iranian community, dubbed "Tehrangeles" because it is home to the world's largest concentration of ethnic Iranians outside Iran.
In the past week these media have rallied Iranian-Americans to support demonstrations that erupted in Iran after authorities announced that incumbent hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had won a landslide in the June 12 election.
The main challenger, political moderate Mirhossein Mousavi, is disputing the official result. Mousavi has accused authorities of rigging the vote, a charge dismissed by the government.
Openly critical of Tehran's Islamic government for years, Channel One has urged viewers in Iran to embrace civil disobedience. The station also promoted a rally by local college students in support of Iranian protesters on Sunday and sought to drum up attendance for a second such L.A. gathering set for June 20.
While precise figures are unavailable, an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people of Iranian heritage reside in Southern California, most in and around Los Angeles, drawn to the area by family connections and a climate similar to that of Tehran.
The upcoming L.A. rally also was promoted in electronic flyers circulated via the Internet under a banner that read, "Stop Killing Innocent People in Iran" with a photo of a recent mass protest in Tehran's Freedom Square.
At least seven people were killed in street battles in Tehran on Monday, according to Iranian state media.
Much of what the outside world has glimpsed of Iran's civil unrest has originated from photos and video clips clandestinely captured by protesters themselves -- often on cell phones -- and transmitted to news outlets abroad.
Footage aired by Channel One this week included video of a female protester striking a police officer, while another clip showed what appeared to be pro-government paramilitary forces opening fire on demonstrators from a building.
One particularly grisly photo showed demonstrators helping a young man who was bleeding from the neck.
"It's horrible, horrible because we see him dying even though people there are trying to help him," said Assal Pahlevan, a Channel One correspondent and host.
She said the young people in the vanguard of Iran's demonstrations have told her their cause goes beyond support for Mousavi.
"They said, 'You know what Assal? I could lose my life and it doesn't bother me. But I know that we will get to what we wanted from the beginning, and that's liberty and democracy," Pahlevan recounted.
Shahram Homayoun, president of Channel One, has received some 1,500 emails daily from inside Iran, many of them containing nuggets of information and images aired in his round-the-clock broadcasts of news and commentary.
Iranians in the country phone in regularly to Channel One, usually using a pre-paid calling card or cell phone to avoid detection by authorities.
Channel One officials say they have admonished activists in Iran to refrain from violence but are not opposed to more creative forms of protest. During his broadcast on Wednesday, Homayoun relayed a story from the Iranian city of Shiraz about protesters who offered security forces tainted orange juice, then watched as the men fled with diarrhea.
Despite increased jamming of its signal by Iranian authorities in recent months, Channel One estimates that it manages to reach as much as 15 percent of Iran's population of more than 70 million people.
"We want to overturn the government without bloodshed," Homayoun said through a translator.