News from Tehran

How should we judge these distinguished TV presenters, who are employed by a channel that publishes the work of Holocaust deniers?

Press TV is an English-language international news channel funded by the Iranian government, which was launched in 2007. Since then, it has achieved some success globally, employing more than 400 staff worldwide. The channel’s aims include delivering “unbiased reporting of controversial global news” and “in-depth and complete analyses of current affairs”; and “embracing and building bridges of cultural understanding”.

In May 2008, an essay entitled “The Walls of Auschwitz,” by Dr Nicholas Kollerstrom, was published on Press TV’s website. Kollerstrom, an historian of astronomy, was once a research fellow at University College London’s Department of Science and Technology Studies, but his fellowship was terminated after he published an essay, entitled “The Auschwitz Gas Chamber Illusion”, on a website calling itself the “Committee for the Open Discussion of the Holocaust”. In both essays, he claims data suggests the “alleged human gas chambers” of Auschwitz never functioned as lethal gas chambers and that “much of the gas chambers are now acknowledged to be postwar-reconstructed”. “The Walls of Auschwitz” could still be found on Press TV’s website at the time of writing-nearly a year after its publication. Kollerstrom is described by Press TV as “a distinguished academic”.

An organisation like Press TV should find it difficult to gain credibility – the content of its programmes is often highly tendentious. However, we need to look at the involvement of a few notable individuals in order to understand why people are tuning in. Andrew Gilligan, Tariq Ramadan, Nick Ferrari and Derek Conway MP are some of the individuals who have been employed by Press TV’s London office regularly to present documentaries and panel shows. Their participation lends the channel a respectability that it might not have otherwise had.

Are they just naïve and don’t realise that they are being used as pawns by Press TV to give the channel a veneer of respectability? Are they comfortable working for an organisation which publishes work by a man who claims that cyanide gas chambers at Auschwitz were used “for purposes of hygiene and disinfection, in order to save lives and not take them”?

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