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Iran’s Press TV Rapped Over Vienna Talks Negative Coverage

Facing attacks on the Vienna talks aimed at reviving Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, the Iranian government has this week singled out for criticism the state broadcaster IRIB, particularly its English language television station Press TV.

On Wednesday [May 5], Saeed Khatibzadeh, the foreign ministry spokesman, disputed the channel’s claim that the Vienna talks were on the brink of failure due to the United States refusing to "terminate all the sanctions." At the weekly cabinet meeting Wednesday, President Hassan Rouhani implied state broadcasting was "reporting based on factional interests and deception."

Against the coverage of IRIB, where hardliners opposed to the 2015 deal exert influence, Rouhani said he expected success in the talks: "I announce that sanctions have been broken and will soon be lifted if we all stand together and united.” 

While noting that differences between Iran and the US were “not few” and that some US demands were unacceptable, Khatibzadeh argued that contrary to sources in Vienna cited by Press TV, “everyone should be certain that the talks would have stopped if the United States insisted on matters like this.”

Envoys from China, France, Germany, Iran, Russia and the United Kingdom are in the fourth round of formal talks in Vienna over reviving the 2015 deal, the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), a process in which the US, which left the JCPOA in 2018, is involved indirectly. Three expert-level working groups are assessing which US sanctions need to be lifted, which steps in Iran’s nuclear program reversed, and how the process can be coordinated.

While the talks face many challenges, diplomats’ expressions of guarded optimism have alarmed opponents of the agreement in both Washington and Tehran. On Tuesday the Associated Press reported that an agreement might be within reach.

Iran’s state broadcasting network has been generally critical of the negotiations. But Press TV has been especially vehement, often quoting "informed sources” stressing disagreements between negotiators.

The phlegmatic Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s chief negotiator in Vienna, on April 20 tweeted:  "I don't know who the 'informed source' of Press TV in Vienna is, but he is certainly not 'informed.’”

The issue of which US sanctions contravene the JCPOA is part of the talks, but Press TV has stressed a supposed Iranian commitment to lift all American sanctions on Iranian officials and entities listed as Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN). Press TV has also highlighted the need to preclude  the US obstruction of Iran’s international trade that operated between 2015 and 2018, when Washington was ostensibly abiding by the JCPOA.

A British-Iranian journalist, political analyst and former correspondent of The National and journalist at Iran International
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