Iran: Iranian newscaster for state TV flees country after disclosing years of sexual harassment at work

Feb 10
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Sheena Shirani Iranian state-run Press TV anchor has fled  the country revealing years of sexual harassment at work
Sheena Shirani Iranian state-run Press TV anchor has fled the country revealing years of sexual harassment at work

New York Times
Monday, 8 February 2016

TEHRAN — Press TV, Iran’s state-run, English language news channel, suspended two executives on Monday after a prominent newscaster said she had endured years of sexual harassment from them.

The newscaster, Sheena Shirani, has fled the country.

On Friday she posted a recording of an explicit phone conversation with one of the men, the channel’s news editor, Hamid Reza Emadi. In the recording, Mr. Emadi can be heard multiple times requesting sexual favors from Ms. Shirani. It is unclear who the second official is.

In another exchange, Mr. Emadi asks Ms. Shirani to come to his house after she has finished working the night shift.

The audio recording, posted by Ms. Shirani on her Facebook page, continues with Mr. Emadi saying he is lying in bed naked. He insists that he has “always helped” her and begs Ms. Shirani to have phone sex with him “for just five minutes.”

Ms. Shirani firmly tells him that she owes him no favors and just needs a job to support herself and her son. In reply, Mr. Emadi sends images of himself asking for compliments for losing weight and calling himself “a sexy, perverted” guy. Most parts of the conversation were explicit. She tried repeatedly to end the conversation.

Press TV is a part of the Voice and Vision organization of Iran, a powerful state media organization that is widely seen as a tool of the country’s hard-line factions. One expatriate journalist who previously worked for Newsweek said that Mr. Emadi doubled as an interrogator in the Evin prison and once interrogated him. Mr. Emadi was later placed on a European blacklist of human rights violators.

The public announcement of the suspensions has surprised observers, who point out that usually such incidents are hushed up or relabeled.

“We have seen cases of Iranian diplomats abroad being accused of sexual harassment,” said Mojgan Faraji, a journalist promoting reforms. She referred to a case in 2012 when an Iranian diplomat fondled girls who were 9 to 15 years old in a pool in Brasília. Iranian officials called it “a cultural misunderstanding” at the time, and the diplomat was later fired. “But this suspension in some ways means admission,” Ms. Faraji said.

The incident has also led to debate on social media. Several women have said such forms of harassment are commonplace in Iran, where unemployment is high and laws overwhelmingly favor men.

Press TV, in a statement on its website in Persian, did not identify the two suspended officials. Sexual harassment is not mentioned, and the statement stresses that the release of the recording “with cooperation of the regime’s opposition” was done in order to damage Iran’s political system.

The statement also said that Ms. Shirani has made no formal complaint inside Iran.

Correction: February 8, 2016 

An earlier version of this article conflated two of the exchanges between Sheena Shirani and Hamid Reza Emadi that were posted on her Facebook page. Mr. Emadi’s requests for sexual favors were made in a phone conversation with Ms. Shirani; his request that she come to his house after finishing work was part of a separate exchange. The article also misstated the nature of his request in the phone conversation. He suggested having phone sex, not physical sex.

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