Recently elected Tehran MP Seyyed Nezamoldin Mousavi owes his political successes to strategic connections in conservative media outlets. Throughout his media career, Mousavi has cultivated links to large bonyads as well as a host of newspapers, news agencies and regulatory councils. His rise to power sheds light on the central role that state-funded media organizations play in Iranian high politics.
Mousavi won a Tehran seat in the February elections for the Majles, Iran’s parliament, receiving approximately 700,000 votes. He ran on the conservative candidate list headed by former Tehran mayor Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who also won a Majles seat with about 1.2 million votes.
Mousavi’s election to the Majles means he now has several blaring conflicts of interest. He chairs a regulatory organization that muzzles the press, conducts public relations campaigns for major bonyads and appears to still hold an executive position in at least one of the six newspapers and press agencies he formerly managed.
Seyyed Nezamoldin Mousavi’s Conflicts of Interest
Connections to Bonyads
Mousavi maintains connections to various bonyads, including:
- AQR: Astan Qods Razavi (AQR) is a foundation that manages the Razavi Shrine and its assets in Mashhad. It is the largest real estate owner and one of the biggest employers in Khorasan Razavi Province. Mousavi was communications & media deputy for AQR from 2017-2020. There are no reports on whether or not he will retain his AQR position once his term begins in Majles.
- EIKO: Mousavi is also connected to the Execution of Imam Khomeini’s Order (EIKO). In 2018, he was one of the founding members of Barakat Ehsan Bonyad, an EIKO subsidiary whose activities include “treating social injuries…setting up various charities across the country and organizing volunteer, popular and jihadi activities.”
Until 2019, Mousavi was a board member of the Islamic Revolution Publishers’ Council (IRPC). The IRPC is another EIKO subsidiary, according to public records. Its objectives include “networking with international publishers to further the Islamic and revolutionary objectives of the council and conducting cultural and technological deals necessary to establish news agencies with the same agenda as the IPRC.”
Mousavi was head of the EIKO Cultural Council and head of the EIKO Information Council. Prior to running for Majlis and releasing his resume to the press, Mousavi’s two positions at EIKO were not public knowledge.
- BTS: According to public records, Mousavi has been a board member of the Monadiyan Basirat Media Company, a subsidiary of Basij Cooperative Foundation (BTB). The BTB is a subsidiary of the Sepah Cooperative Foundation (BTS), the IRGC’s economic empire.
Newspapers and Press Agencies
Mousavi has had various relationships with newspapers and hardline press agencies for decades, including:
- As a board member of Payam Avaran Nashr Rouz, a BTB subsidiary that publishes the IRGC-affiliated Javan Newspaper.
- As CEO and board member of Fars News Agency from 2012-2018, and remains a partner in this major news organization.
- As an affiliate with the ultra-conservative Keyhan daily.
- As editor-in-chief of Iran Newspaper, which has ownership links to the family of Iran’s leader Ali Khamenei.
- As founder and editor-in-chief of Iran’s Student News Network (SNN), according to the resume he released when running for Majles in 2020. SNN is affiliated with the Student Basij. Public records do not confirm this claim.
- In 2017-2018, Mousavi was also board chairman of the AQR-owned Qods Institute, which publishes Quds Daily in Mashhad.
Censorship and Corruption
Mousavi was in 2018 reappointed the director of the Muslim Journalists Association, an exclusive press club and de-facto regulatory body that “cleanses the press atmosphere in accordance with islamic revolutionary values,” according to its articles of incorporation. The Association’s mandate also includes “active participation in political, cultural and social arenas to counter foreign cultural inroads,” all while “defending…freedom of the press.”
Membership in the association is only open to those who have “practical commitment” to the “absolute Guardianship of the Islamic Jurist” (Velayat-e Faqih), a founding principle of Iran’s Islamic republic.
The Who’s Who of the Muslim Journalists Association
Other individuals on the MJA board of directors reveal its deep ties to various conservative organizations and previously mapped networks of corruption:
- Massoud Basiri is MJA’s first deputy director general. He was also a board member of BTB-owned Monadiyan Basirat Media along with Mousavi. Basiri is on the board of a company called Payam Avaran Tolou Khorshid, which “trains journalists, camera operators and photojournalists to represent and defend IRI objectives internationally.”
- Mehdi Shakibaei is MJA’s second deputy director general. He is on the board of a company called “Negah No” Reflection of Muslim World Developments which, according to its articles of incorporation, has set out to “create a databank of journalists and elites in the Muslim world, and to hold seminars to discuss important developments in the Muslim world,” among other things.
Our research shows that “Negah No” has produced a film, “First Time Pilgrims” with the support of AQR.
Shakibaei is connected to two individuals in the Qalibaf Network. The first, Meysam Emroudi, is a cleric who shares business interests with members of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s family. Shakibaei connects to Emroudi via the Society for the Defence of the Palestinian Nation. The second company connecting Shakibaei and Emroudi is Qods News Agency (Qodsna). Shakibaei is Qodsna’s CEO. The news agency is dedicated to defending Palestinian Resistance and pursuing a referendum in the Palestinian territories.
Shakibaei is on the board of the Protection of Family Values Foundation, along with Seyyed Mohammad Hadi Ayazi, a close friend of Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf.
(It is noteworthy of mention that former Bonyad Mostazafan custodian Mohsen Rafiqdust is also a member of the Protection of Family Values Foundation’s board of directors. His foundation, Nour, was involved in a 20-year-old sex trafficking scandal in which dozens were indicted.)
- Meqdad Zakizadeh is the speaker of MJA and sits on the boards of Menhaj Enqelab Cultural and Media Institute as well as Matin Ray Pouya, both of which are involved in E-publications. The Institute produces conservative propaganda films including ones titled “ The JCPOA Embarrassment” and “ Purple Prudence,” which directly target President Hassan Rouhani’s policies.
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