In a style typical of state television, a young interviewer stands on a sidewalk in a busy area and asks passersby their opinions about the recent outpouring of protests across Iran. A man in his 60s with tired eyes responds, “I have three children. They’re doctors and engineers. And all three are unemployed.”
A veteran of the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War, with a crowd standing around him, defiantly tells the interviewer, “I need medication for my injuries from the war, but my medicine isn’t covered, and I’m told to go buy it on the black market. Who can afford that? I have a condition in my back and at any moment I can be paralyzed. Who am I supposed to air my pain to?”
In a sharply produced video by Avant TV, a new internet channel on the sophisticated Iranian media landscape, a steady stream of people relay that they can no longer make ends meet in Iran’s struggling economy.
The Avant TV video, released on social media five days after protests erupted in Iran, which have thus far spread to dozens of cities and almost every province, carefully stitches together an emotional array of interviews of people unhappy with the economic situation and President Hassan Rouhani’s policies. With scarce public information available about Avant TV, and with the great pains its producers have taken to present it as an independent station, the video is intended to appear to be transparent, a true representation of the will of the Iranian people.
Glaringly absent from the video are any criticism of the political establishment as a whole, which has been one of the main themes of the current demonstrations.
Avant TV is in fact not independent at all. Al-Monitor has not been able to contact it, but two pro-regime media producers confirmed that it is only the latest example of a new media outlet backed by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) seeking to reinforce the narrative of the supreme leader above the politics of Iran.