The launch of a Persian language television channel by Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan has been postponed yet again despite an announcement in March that it was imminent.
The Iranian ambassador to Tajikistan, Ali-Asghar Sherdoost, told the semi-official Mehr News Agency on March 20 that the first broadcast of the channel would take place that night with the official launch a few days later.
A month on, and there is still no announcement about the channel starting up.
Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan are considered the three main Persian language-speaking countries and they have been negotiating on the project for over a decade. The Afghan language Dari and Tajik are dialects of Persian.
Former Iranian president Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani first proposed the idea in 1991 after Tajikistan gained independence following the disintegration of the Soviet Union. At the time, Iran was showing interest in the former Soviet states of Central Asia and the Caucasus that were once part of the Persian civilisation.
With the start of the Afghan and Tajik civil wars in the 1990s, however, the plan was cast aside.
In July 2006, Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad once again brought up the idea of a joint television channel at a meeting of the heads of the three states in the Tajik capital Dushanbe.
The head of Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting, IRIB, Ezatollah Zarghami, who is appointed by Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, travelled to Afghanistan and Tajikistan in February 2009 to discuss the plan.
[. . .]
One of the major issues around the launch of the venture is the difference in the broadcasting policies of the three countries since Afghan and Tajik media are open and liberal compared to Iran.
Since the presidential election in Iran last June, more than 100 journalists have been detained. IRIB, which attracts the most viewers in Iran, follows a strict censorship policy on news and other programmes.
Censorship is not limited to political issues and covers anything that does not correspond with the regime’s religious views.
Musical performances, including singing and dancing by women, are normal on Afghan and Tajik television. Last December, in contrast, the head of IRIB announced more restrictions including a cutback in the use of music and a ban on women presenters wearing makeup and went as far as banning any joking between women and men on television.
“If there is a female guest on a show the presenter must also be a woman,” Zarghami said, describing the main objective of IRIB as guiding young adults towards Islam.