You can respect Jeremy Corbyn for being a man of principle. You can respect him for rebuilding the Labour party with a massive influx of new members who were previously unengaged with politics. And you can respect the fact that, daily, he has to deal with a hostile Conservative tabloid press that has spread the most bizarre lies and distortions about him.
But his relationship with Press TV, the state TV media arm of Iran, just looks plain wrong.
Business Insider writer Adam Payne reported yesterday that Corbyn made a series of paid appearances on Iran’s Press TV despite the fact that Press TV reporters had filmed the forced confession of a torture victim, broadcast in Iran. Corbyn even appeared on Press TV after it had been investigated and banned from the UK by Ofcom, the government TV regulator, for its links to the torture-confession broadcast.
We have repeatedly requested an explanation of Corbyn’s relationship with the Iranian state broadcaster and his team declined to comment. We welcome their input if Corbyn changes his mind.
In the meantime, this is just plain weird. Most of us, left or right, get through our entire lives without cashing cheques from Iran. Most of us have entire careers without working for companies that are banned from the UK over their links to torture.
But not Corbyn.
Prior to the Ofcom ban, Corbyn had a partial excuse. All he did was go on TV, and debate with others there about Middle East politics. He probably had no idea that other staff at Press TV were filming Maziar Bahari, detained in the Evin prison for more than 100 days, answer a series of fake questions on camera in order to escape further beatings.
Corbyn’s excuses ran out in January 2012. That was when Ofcom banned Press TV and fined the organisation £100,000 for broadcasting Bahari’s forced confession and because its editorial decisions were being made in Tehran and not by independent journalists in the UK, a broadcast licence requirement. Press TV didn’t pay the fine.
Yet Corbyn returned to Press TV in June of that year, and took another payment from the state-controlled station, which at that time couldn’t even be seen in the UK.
People on the left should be against torture, against forced confessions, and against media outlets that are controlled by Islamic republics that abuse human rights.
The Conservative government has never been weaker. It is literally leaderless right now, after prime minister David Cameron lost the EU Referendum, plunging the UK into what looks like a simultaneous economic and constitutional crisis. There may be a new general election before the end of the year.
As a matter of tactics, Labour needs a leader who can press the party’s advantages without being distracted by its baggage. Yet Labour is going into this fight led by someone who took money from a company linked to torture in Iran. And Corbyn has not explained why he did that.
This cannot be right.
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