Jeremy Corbyn has given an explanation of what he did with the money he received from Press TV, and why he agreed to be employed by the Iranian state TV channel as an occasional host and commentator seven years ago. He believed he could use his access to the Islamic broadcaster to raise LGBT humans rights issues, Corbyn told PinkNews.
In July, Business Insider reported on Jeremy Corbyn’s peculiar relationship with Iranian TV network. Before becoming Labour leader, he received up to £20,000 (about $27,000) for several appearances on the channel between 2009 and 2012.
Press TV is the main arm of Iran’s tightly controlled broadcasting machinery. Its director is appointed by the Islamic Republic’s Supreme Leader, meaning its output usually reflects the religious establishment’s strict conservative ideology.
Corbyn received his final payment six months after the network’s UK’s licence was revoked by Ofcom for airing a forced confession by Newsweek journalist Maziar Bahari. Bahara was covering the 2009 post-election protests as a CNN journalist when he was arrested, confined in a notorious military prison, tortured, and forced to read a pre-agreed confession on Press TV in order to secure his release.
The confession was used as a segment on a Press TV show which claimed Western coverage of the 2009 Iranian election had been biased.
- READ THE ARTICLE IN FULL: Jeremy Corbyn was paid by an Iranian state TV station that was complicit in the forced confession of a tortured journalist.
When we first asked Corbyn to explain the Press TV payments, over two months ago, Corbyn’s office would only say: “we don’t comment on historical matters.” On Wednesday, Corbyn finally addressed the links during an interview with LGBT network PinkNews.
Unsurprisingly, a PinkNews reader on the show said she was “troubled” by Corbyn’s past dealings with Press TV, given that Iran is a place where rights for LGBT people are severely curtailed. In 2011, the year of Corbyn’s third appearance, for example, three Iranian men were executed for homosexuality. Just last month, a 19-year old boy was executed for being gay.
This is what Corbyn said (emphasis ours):
“I did some programmes for Press TV quite a long time ago. I refused to do any more because there was a change in the process they were operating…”
“I presented other programmes in which I was able to raise a number of human rights issues, not just in Iran but other countries as well — and the money I was paid, which wasn’t an enormous amount actually, went on my constituency office.”
On whether he accepts criticism for appearing on Press TV, he added:
“Obviously, they are free to make the criticism they wish.”
“I used the opportunities to address the issues of the Western relationship with the whole region, address the issues of Iraq, and also address issues of human rights — even in a very difficult atmosphere when you’re dealing with countries and governments that clearly don’t have the same human rights agenda that I do or we do around this table.”
“Everywhere I’ve ever travelled I’ve always raised the issues of human rights, however easy or difficult it is.”
Two parts of Corbyn’s explanation stand out here. Firstly, the claim that the money he received to appear on Press TV over the four-year span went to his constituency office, and secondly, his claim that he used the platform of Press TV to raise human rights issues.
Did the money go to his constituency office?
What Corbyn meant by his “constituency office” is unclear. We contacted the Labour leader on Thursday morning and asked him to clarify. We will publish a follow-up article on this point as soon as we have a response.
He could have been referring to one of two things: 1) The Islington North Constituency Labour Party (CLP) or 2) his personal MP office. It doesn’t seem likely that he was referring to the latter, as there is no record on the Electoral Commission database of the Islington North CLP receiving money from Corbyn.
If the money was put towards his personal office then this raises a whole new line of questions. Was the money spent on things which benefit his constituents? Or Corbyn alone?
Did he address human rights issues when on Press TV?
Corbyn’s Press TV appearances are best-known for their discussions of Middle East politics and the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, not sexuality. It is not possible to say that Corbyn never raised human rights issues on any of his Press TV appearances. The full archive of his shows is no longer publicly available. But in the archive footage which is still available online, the former rebel backbencher never raises the issue of LGBT rights. (Press TV became an online channel in the UK after it was banned from broadcasting by Ofcom.)
Oliver Kamm, a columnist for The Times, posted a number of tweets on Wednesday night claiming Corbyn never raised these issues on Press TV when he appeared alongside him:
3/n One of those appearances was to debate with Corbyn. He said nothing when audience applauded ferocious antisemitic quote by Ahmadinejad.
— Oliver Kamm (@OliverKamm) August 31, 2016
4/4 Corbyn went on Press TV to promote his anti western views. He said nothing against Iranian regime’s xenophobia & human rights abuses.
— Oliver Kamm (@OliverKamm) August 31, 2016
We will update this story if we hear more details from Corbyn’s office.