In the following two-part series of articles, we unwrap the IRGC’s three major media outlets: Tasnim and Fars news agencies, as well as the daily newspaper Javan. A look at these media organizations’ board members uncovers a cohort of the Islamic Republic’s top spin doctors, including the IRGC commander who helped establish them.
Javan newspaper is not only written by and for the Basij militia, but also formally controlled by the IRGC, despite its editor’s denial of the existence of such links. A look at the prior and present board members of Javan newspaper uncovers a cohort of the Islamic Republic’s top spin doctors, including the IRGC commander who helped establish the news agencies Fars, Tasnim and Javan: Hamidreza Moghaddamfar. An analysis of the Rooznameh Rasmi business registry shows that a vast majority of past and present board members of this media organization have been IRGC commanders or individuals employed by the Supreme Leader’s office.
Javan was established in 1998 under the ownership of the Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz publishing house, which owns the newspaper’s publishing and distribution rights. Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz is a Basij Cooperative Foundation, or Bonyad Taavon Basij (BTB) subsidiary, which in turn is controlled by the IRGC Cooperative Foundation, or Bonyad Taavon Sepah, according to previous reporting by Tehran Bureau.
Abdollah Ganji was the managing editor of Javan from 2013 to 2021, when he became the managing editor of Hamshahri Newspaper, according to various news reports. Notably, Hamshahri is one of the media outlets controlled by the Supreme Leader via his family members, as previously reported by the Tehran Bureau.
In an interview published on October 8, 2019 by Ensaf News, Ganji said that Javan has four sources of revenue: newsstand sales, advertisements, an annual subscription contract with the Basij militia, as well as a publishing house owned by Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz.
In previous public statements, Ganji denied any “organizational, legal or structural” affiliation with the IRGC, “Because they [the public] see this paper [distributed] among the Basij, they think it belongs to the IRGC,” he told Ensaf News.
However, our investigation shows that several Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz board members have IRGC/Basij service records. Publicly available documents from 2017 show that the institute’s main shareholders are the Basij Cooperative Foundation, or Bonyad Taavon Basij (BTB) and its subsidiary, the Consumer Goods Provision Foundation of Basij Members (Tamin-e Aqlam-e Masrafi-ye Basijian).
The Basij are one of the branches of the IRGC. BTB is a subsidiary of the IRGC Cooperative Foundation, or Bonyad Taavon-e Sepah (BTS). The Basij leadership has almost always comprised of active IRGC members.
Javan and the Crackdowns
Javan’s political allegiance to the Basij has driven its disinformation campaign against prominent activists and anti-government protesters. The paper routinely targets the U.S.-based feminist Masih Alinejad. An article on February 13 entitled “Confessions of a disillusioned CIA agent” included a photo of Alinejad and claimed she confessed to being a CIA and White House agent. Javan also falsely quoted Alinejad saying the protests, or “riots,” were orchestrated by the United States.
In another piece from February 25, Javan continued to falsely claim the events following Mahsa Amini’s death were part of an enemy conspiracy, that the fatalities sustained by young people did not happen during the protests, and that the victims were deliberately chosen to represent various ethnic minorities to stoke sectarian violence, among other inaccuracies.
An overview of Javan board members
A physician by trade, Heydari is one of the founding members of the Muslim Doctors Without Borders of Iran. In January 2021, when the COVID pandemic in Iran was at its height, Heydari was one of 192 signatories of a letter asking Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei to ban the import of American, British, and French COVID vaccines on ideological grounds. The ban was widely seen as contributing to the nearly 145,000 deaths by the virus in Iran.
Heydari became head of the Student Basij Organization in September 2013, according to Jahan News and held the position for two years, according to Tasnim News Agency. The Student Basij Organization is headquartered at the site of the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran.
He became head of the Communication and Information Center of the Supreme Leader Representation in Universities organization, or Nahad, in 2016. This organization is charged with delivering PR messages from the Supreme Leader’s Office to higher education institutions. Thus far, there are no announcements about his departure, suggesting that Heydari still holds this position.
In 2016, Heydari was one of the founding members of the hardline Khedmatgozaran Abadi va Pishraft (Servants of Prosperity and Progress) party which has enjoyed the support of various hardline conservatives. These include Ali Khamenei’s relative Gholam Ali Haddad Adel, Hossein Taeb and Alireza Panahian. The party also supported candidates like Narjes Soleimani, daughter of the late IRGC General Qassem Soleimani, in the 2021 Tehran city council elections.
Seyyed Nezamoldin Mousavi
Mousavi is an influential MP for Tehran connected to various Supreme Leader-controlled Bonyads and media organizations such as Fars News and Keyhan, Tehran Bureau’s previous reporting shows. Mousavi was a member of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz’s board of directors from 2012 until 2017, according to Rooznameh Rasmi documents.
Moghaddamfar is an IRGC commander who helped found the Islamic Republic’s largest hardline-affiliated news outlets. Aside from his position on the board of Javan, which he has held since the newspaper’s founding in 1998, Moghaddamfar served on the board of Fars News Agency during its founding in 2003. He is also a founding executive of Tasnim News, which launched operations in 2012.
Moghaddamfar is also the culture and media advisor to the IRGC commander-in-chief, according to Mehr News. In addition, he is the deputy head of the Office for the Preservation and Publication of the Supreme Leader’s Works, according to the Hawzah news portal. This organization prints, promotes, and distributes Khamenei’s works.
He has been on the board of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz since 2012 and is also one of the founding and current board members of Tasnim News Agency. He was the CEO of Fars News Agency in 2012, according to Rooznameh Rasmi.
Accoriding to Mehr News, he is also the secretary of the People’s Headquarters for Commemoration of Qassem Soleimani.
Seyyed Masoud Jazayeri
Jazayeri is also an IRGC commander. He started his career in Islamic Revolution Committees, the predecessors of the morality police, according to the Islamic Students News Agency. In this role, he dispatched impromptu justice to perceived enemies of the 1979 Revolution in the early years of the regime before joining the IRGC. Jazayeri, an active propagandist, has held various positions in communications. These include a role as the IRGC’s public relations officer and spokesman, member of the IRGC policy office, member of the IRGC Supreme Council, as well as the Supreme Leader’s representative at the IRGC-founded Imam Hossein University. He was appointed the cultural and defense propaganda General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic by Khamenei in 2007 and continues to hold this position.
Jazayeri was a member of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz’s board of directors from 2012 until at least 2018, according to Rooznameh Rasmi.
Ali Mohammad Naeini
Naeini is still another IRGC commander who served on the board of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz in 2012, according to Rooznameh Rasmi documents.
Naeini previously sat on the board of Tose Fazahaye Farhangi and the Tehran Municipality’s Cultural & Art Organization when Mohammad- Baqer Qalibaf was mayor. He is currently on the board of Iran’s National Family Bonyad and recently founded the Sacred Defense of Iran Scientific Association, according to Rooznameh Rasmi. His co-founders include IRGC commanders like Yahya Rahim Safavi and Bahman Kargar, who heads the headquarters of the Rahian-e Noor caravans. In these commemorative tours, regime supporters travel seasonally to the sites of Iran-Iraq war battles in southern Iran.
According to Tasnim News, he is also head of the Headquarters for the Commemoration of 9 Dey (December 30). These pro-government rallies celebrate the crushing of the 2009 Green Movement uprising.
Esbati is yet another IRGC commander. He was chairman of the board of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz in 2012, according to Rooznameh Rasmi. He was previously the head of the Office for the Coordination of National Cyberspace and Armed Forces and is currently head of the Armed Forces Cyberspace Headquarters, according to Tasnim News.
Jabbari is another IRGC commander who was on the board of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz in 2012 until at least 2018, according to Rooznameh Rasmi documents. , According to the Tabnak news agency, Jabbari was the head of Ravayat Fath Bonyad (Chronicles of Victory Foundation) until 2017. This foundation makes documentaries about the Iraq-Iran War and other propaganda.
Jabbari was also one of the producers of a controversial movie called Golden Collars, according to the culture-focused CinemaPress.ir. This propaganda film about the 2009 protests portrayed demonstrators as Mojahedin-e-Khalq Organization (MKO) agents sent to destabilize Iran. Abolqasem Talebi, the director, claimed on Twitter, that the Supreme Leader’s Office had contacted him to say Khamenei “watched the movie a second time.”
Mohammad Javad Akhavan
Akhavan is the current CEO and managing editor of Javan, having replaced Abdollah Ganji in 2021. His inauguration ceremony was attended by some of the regime’s top propagandists including:
• Sepehr Khalaji, the Supreme Leader’s Office director of public relations
• Abdollah Zeighami, deputy commander of the IRGC media headquarters also known as the Islamic Revolution Media Front headquarters
• Abdolreza Azadi, and IRGC commander and deputy director of the Basij Art and Culture division
Abdollah Zeighami has been in charge of the IRGC psyops HQ, according to documents first publicized by the Al Arabiya Farsi news portal. In 2009, he was deputy commander of the Thar-Allah Headquarters, according to Deutsche Welle’s Farsi-language news portal. The headquarters is in charge of security in Tehran. He played an important role in crushing the protests that took place in response to the contested presidential election that year.
Sepehr Khalaji, who has a doctorate in communications, was the Supreme Leader’s Office director of public relations for 12 years and had previously been one of the top executives at the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA). This year, he was appointed President Ebrahim Raisi’s chief government speaker.
Azadi is an IRGC commander and deputy director of the Basij Art and Culture division. Until recently, he was also the chairman of the board of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz, according to this Rooznameh Rasmi document. Azadi has served on the board of Basij Cooperative Foundation (BTB), which is a BTS subsidiary, as well as a host of BTB companies such as Razmandegan-e Islam Arts and Culture Organization, Razmandegan-e Islam Scientific and Education Services Institute, Monadian Basirat Institute and Razmandegan-e Islam Scientific and Education Services Institute.
Monadian Basirat Institute produces propagandistic video games such as “Commander of the Resistance: Amerli Battle” about Qassem Soleimani, Sniper: Golden Eagle, and The Epic of Nader.
Seyyed Yaser Jebraeili
Jebraeili is credited as the person who developed President Ebrahim Raisi’s economic policy. He is currently the deputy director of the Center for Evaluation and Strategic Monitoring of the Islamic Republic’s General Policies at the Expediency Council. He was also the training and research deputy for Fars News Agency from at least 2013 to 2017, according to news reports. Jebraeili has been a vocal opponent of the previous administration’s efforts to adopt the Financial Action Task Force action plan, which aims to stymie money laundering and terrorism financing, telling Tejarat news that Iran could only adopt the plan “If there were no sanctions and if resistance groups were exempt from terrorist groups.”