October 31, 2023 | The Algemeiner

HispanTV Is Iran’s Propaganda Arm in Latin America; Why Is It Still Being Broadcast?

October 31, 2023 | The Algemeiner

HispanTV Is Iran’s Propaganda Arm in Latin America; Why Is It Still Being Broadcast?

On October 7, Hamas terrorists breached the Gaza security fence, entered Israel, and massacred more than 1,400 people — raping, burning, mutilating, and torturing their victims, including infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly, and disabled people. They also took more than 220 hostages back to Gaza.

But you would not know about the largest slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust if you watched HispanTV, the Spanish-language satellite channel run by the Islamic Republic of Iran.

HispanTV was established in 2012, as a Spanish-language subsidiary of the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting corporation (IRIB), which the US government sanctioned in 2013 and 2022 for its role in trampling dissent, spreading disinformation, and being an accessory to human rights violations, including broadcasting forced confessions of dissidents and foreign hostages.

Modeled after its English-language twin, PressTV, HispanTV targets Spanish speaking audiences across the globe, and is available on satellitecablelivestreamingits Internet platform, and social media, including FacebookInstagram, and Telegram.

HispanTV’s non-suspended YouTube account had 44,000 subscribers as of last year. Its previous account, which was suspended repeatedly, had more than 300,000 subscribers as of January 2020, with 93,000 unique views per day.

Taking its cues from the Iranian regime’s official party line, HispanTV has routinely normalized terrorism under the rubric of resistance, repeatedly presenting it as the only path open to defend Palestinian rights. Since October 7, Iran has activated HispanTV’s news coverage and commentary to engage in a hateful campaign of incitement and disinformation, whose main purpose is to influence Spanish-language audiences across Latin America.

Its focus is on glorifying Palestinian “resistance,” covering up any evidence of Hamas atrocities as propaganda and fabrication by media controlled by Israel (an old antisemitic trope), and calling for Israel’s destruction.

Within hours of the October 7massacre, the network began a sustained campaign of disinformation across its platforms, through lengthy talk shows, news coverage, short soundbites, and commentary.

Pablo Jofre Leal, a Chile-based columnist and frequent commentator for HispanTV, quickly labeled the Hamas pogrom “their legitimate right of self-defense,” explaining that what mainstream media was reporting was in fact “simply and plainly about the resistance of a people in the face of an exterminating, criminal regime, violator of the human rights of the Palestinian people. Everything else is simply accompanying a false narrative such as the one that wishes to present the Palestinian resistance forces as terrorist organizations.”

On October 19, Jofre Leal doubled down, in a column entitled “Netanyahu and Zionism: bloodthirsty,” by comparing Israel to the Nazis: “Israel — its government and part of its people — through many of their actions — are behaving with the Palestinians like the Third Reich with Jews, gypsies, and mentally disabled people during the national socialist regime.”

Interviewed on a talk show, Iranian cleric Mohsen Mojtahedzadeh, aka Sheij Qomi — one of the senior leaders at the US sanctioned Al Mustafa University’s Spanish language department — lamented the Western mistake of “already believing in Israel’s mendacious propaganda,” and praised the Palestinian people for “teaching a lesson to the world” by showing “that it can resist under such pressure.”

To advance its disinformation, HispanTV deceives its audience.

On October 15, for example, a news item claimed that the image of a Jewish baby burned alive by Hamas on October 7 “was created by artificial intelligence.” To substantiate the claim, HispanTV quoted “American journalist” Jackson Hinkle. Hinkle is a known conspiracy theorist, and a staunch admirer of Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Syria’s Bashar al-Assad; he has denied China’s brutal repression of its Uyghur minority as well as the Syrian regime’s use of chemical weapons against its own people. YouTube recently removed his channel from its platform. Yet HispanTV sought to present him as a credible source.

The next day, another HispanTV piece used information from The Grayzone, founded by fringe left American journalist Max Blumenthal, a frequent commentator on Russian state-affiliated news outlets including RT and Sputnik. In 2019, a Commentary piece described The Grayzone as, “a one-stop propaganda shop, devoted largely to pushing a pro-Assad line on Syria, a pro-regime line on Venezuela, a pro-Putin line on Russia, and a pro-Hamas line on Israel and Palestine.”

In short, the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hamas’ main sponsor, is using HispanTV to promote its proxy, defend its actions, glorify violence, and incite hatred through antisemitic innuendos about Israeli/Zionist/Jewish control of the international media.

HispanTV should therefore face the same treatment as Hamas-affiliated Al-Aqsa TV, whose broadcasts were stopped by Europe’s leading satellite operator Eutelsat following an intervention by France’s broadcasting watchdog CSA. It was no coincidence that HispanTV’s sister channel PressTV was quick to denounce the decision, knowing that if governments and corporations start taking action to shutter their airwaves to glorification of violence by propaganda tools of state-sponsors of terrorism, the days of the likes of HispanTV would be numbered.

Hamas’ October 7 massacre and its coverage in HispanTV should be yet another wake up call for all those reluctant to act against the Iranian regime and the media outlets Tehran and its proxies have been weaponizing for decades.

But ensuring that the hateful rhetoric espoused by HispanTV is stopped from being broadcast is just one step. A large portion of the content distributed by HispanTV comes through social media platforms. While some social media companies have scaled back their content moderation abilities in recent months, the current conflict in Israel is a perfect example of why these efforts are invaluable.

Social media platforms should give due weight to bans on broadcasting entities based on utilizing hate speech, and the relevant decisions of broadcast regulators, when determining if certain individuals or accounts associated with the banned media outlets should be deplatformed to limit the proliferation of hate speech. That should be the case with HispanTV.

Additionally, HispanTV should be treated as a foreign state influence operation of the Islamic Republic of Iran, for their continued rhetoric inciting hatred against Jews and driving global antisemitism. They should be subject to financial sanctions if it is determined they have associated with any entities currently under multinational sanctions, specifically various sanctions that have been put in place on Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ commanders, especially in response to the death of Mahsa Amini.

Finally, media organizations must unequivocally and publicly reject the heinous propaganda globally spewed by HispanTV and ensure that none of its false reporting makes its way into legitimate journalistic circles.

Emanuele Ottolenghi is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies; Marina Rosenberg is Senior Vice President for International Affairs at Anti-Defamation League.


Disinformation Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran in Latin America Iran-backed Terrorism Israel Israel at War