Under his leadership of the state broadcaster, the IRIB greatly expanded, adding more TV and radio stations, including foreign-language stations such as the English-language PressTV and the Spanish-language HispanTV news networks. Yet, the IRIB’s viewership during this time actually decreased as more and more people started watching outlawed satellite TV channels.
Zarghami has not been without controversy. In March 2012, he and 16 other Iranian officials were placed on the European Union‘s sanctions list. The EU explained his inclusion on the blacklist as motivated by what it referred to as Zarghami being involved in “gross human rights violations” related to coverage of the disputed 2009 presidential elections. The targeted officials, including Zarghami, faced the freezing of any assets in the EU and were barred from entering EU member states.
In this vein, in an interview with Chelcheragh magazine published right after the 2013 presidential elections, Rouhani criticized Zarghami’s approach of running the IRIB, saying, “A sizable portion of our young population have boycotted IRIB since they have not found it honest and moral, as it should be. The media must address people’s needs and one of their most important needs is to have access to transparent news and information. When there is more [coverage] about foreign affairs than domestic affairs, when there is a program covering the birth of a panda bear in a zoo in China but no coverage of the workers protesting against late payments [of salaries], it is natural that people form a negative opinion of IRIB.”
After the end of his term as the head of the state broadcaster, Zarghami did not take on another official role and instead, as he has said himself, has spent his time on the internet and especially Instagram. In an interview with Tasnim News Agency in November 2015, he said, “After [stepping down from] IRIB, different organizations invited me to cooperate with them but I rejected all of them, because I preferred to show that I am pursuing official positions.”