Sir David Amess MP sent the following letter to the Editor-in-Chief of The Huffington Post, Polly Curtis, on 8 December 2017:
Dear Ms Curtis,
It is regrettable that The Huffington Post has allowed its respected platform to be exploited by Massoud Khodabandeh to repeat the Iranian regime’s baseless accusations against Iran’s democratic opposition group, the People’s Mojahedin Organisation of Iran (PMOI/MEK).
A review of Mr Khodabandeh’s Huffington Post Blog profile reveals that his latest article, Albania’s Modern Slavery Problem Alienates Europe, is not his first written to attack the PMOI. I understand that in the last years he has published more than a dozen articles expressing similar opinions.
Mr Khodabandeh and his wife, Ann Singleton, have long engaged in attacks and defamation campaigns against the PMOI. Their malign activities against the Iranian opposition, the PMOI, at the behest of the Iranian regime was highlighted in a 2007 report by the British Committee for Iran Freedom.
If one did not know better, one would think that The Huffington Post aims to attack Iran’s organised opposition and back the Iranian regime’s ongoing campaign to tarnish the PMOI’s image and reputation on the international stage A similar check for factual errors and accuracy would reveal that the company - who this person claims to belong to - was created several years ago but no longer exists. This is a serious error given the prevalence of fake news and the increasing public debate on the use of deceptive and false reporting, especially by authoritarian regimes who seek to mask the truth, justify crackdowns on dissidents and defame legitimate opposition.
Thus, it is evident that Mr Khodabandeh and his wife are abusing The Huffington Post to lend credibility to false accusations against the PMOI. This is further re-enforced when such propaganda is repeated on a daily basis in Iranian state media. By this I mean news agencies and websites affiliated to its Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) such as Tasnim News and Fars News.
As analysis by Freedom House highlights, it is worth noting that Iran remains one of the worst countries in the world for internet and press freedom. In a recent report the think tank also classified Iran as tenth in a list of thirty countries that bribe pro-government commentators to spread falsehood and attack critics. Please see the following links for further on such corruption: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2017/iran and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/2017/11/14/governments-30-countries-pay-keyboard-armies-spread-propaganda/
Furthermore, Iran’s state broadcaster, World Service, and the English-language outlet, Press TV, have been involved in human rights violations and which have recently been exposed. You may not know that responsibility for all programming decisions was sanctioned by the EU in 2013 as the outlet has worked with the Iranian security services and prosecutors to broadcast forced confessions. You will no doubt agree that this is totally unacceptable and I refer you to the following link: http://eurlex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2013:068:0009:0013:EN:PDF
This demonising campaign of the PMOI has real consequences for its members and their families in Iran. These people have suffered tremendous persecution by the Iranian authorities. Nowhere is this more evident than in two recent examples. The first concerns the case of prisoner of conscience, Maryam Akbari Monfared. She is serving a fifteen year sentence in Tehran’s Evin Prison. The second concerns, Gholamreza Khosravi Savadjani, who was executed in 2012. I should just point out that both of these cases were highlighted in urgent actions by Amnesty International and in reports by the UN Special Rapporteur on Iran. Once again you can find evidence of these actions here: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE1350902016ENGLISH.pdf and https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/MDE13/058/2012/en/
Given these facts, one would hope that The Huffington Post would end this obvious abuse of its platform. Alternatively, may I suggest that you allow the PMOI an opportunity to respond which they have so far not been afforded. This case reflects poorly on your publication and risks damaging its reputation as an independent, reliable news and opinion publication.
I hope you will take all measures that you deem appropriate to address this case. It is vital that you do not allow the Iranian regime and its affiliates to abuse The Huffington Post’s respected platform to advance their propaganda against Iran’s legitimate opposition.
I look forward to hearing from you in reply.
With all good wishes,
Sir David Amess MP