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Journalism at the Service of Democracy or a Weapon Against Democracy: Norwegian DN correspondent and the Iranian Mojahedin

Text of statement by the President of International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) published on 10 June 2019:

There is a common understanding in Europe that freedom of speech and the free press are the indispensable pillars for, and the greatest guarantee of, democracy. Dictatorships also use the press to consolidate their rule. But when Western media serves dictatorships, it poses the greatest threat to democracy. This is a phenomenon that we have experienced multiple times since the Second World War. One of the bitter experiences in this regard is the approach adopted by some in the Western press vis-à-vis the religious dictatorship ruling Iran. This is a regime that suppresses freedoms of speech and the press domestically, and exploits a few in the Western media, a portion of them wittingly and others unwittingly.

The case of Dagens Næringsliv

A detailed examination by the International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ) regarding statements and letters issued by the Iranian opposition in regard of Dagens Næringsliv (Norwegian daily) and its “upcoming” article, as well as the emails sent by respective reporter and editor to the representative of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and the legal adviser of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in Albania clearly uncovers a political agenda in line with Tehran’s misinformation campaign. The ISJ which has enjoyed the support of thousands of parliamentarians across the Atlantic in recent years, has, among other initiatives, conducted particularly specific and accurate research regarding both the regime and the PMOI/MEK and NCRI, and their members, over the past two decades and has participated in many court cases on related matters. The ISJ has a series of documents that were prepared as a result of the cooperation, research and face-to-face interviews of parliamentary delegations and lawyers with members of the PMOI and NCRI.

The very absurd and baseless accusations coming from unnamed sources focusing on demonizing the only remaining resistance movement standing up to the brutal dictatorship of the mullahs in Iran, leaves one wondering of the real motives of this paper.

At any rate, we are making this public call to this newspaper and the Norwegian media and political community to warn of Tehran’s agenda to infiltrate the press in Norway, a country known for its brave resistance against dictatorship.

The editor has written to the PMOI’s legal adviser in Albania that DN focuses on investigative journalism, and that Mr Eskil Engdal is an investigative reporter. The question is: how did this reporter and the newspaper suddenly came to the realization that the PMOI, the only organized resistance movement to the Iranian theocracy should be investigated? Why have they failed so far to investigate the Iranian regime’s human rights violations or terrorism? Why has he not investigated the illegal activities of the Iranian regime’s embassy in Oslo? Why has it not investigated the case of Mohammad Davoudzadeh Louloui (an Iranian terrorist and a Norwegian citizen), who was arrested in Denmark and has close relations with the Iranian regime’s Ambassador to Oslo? Why has this investigative reporter failed to cover the Iranian regime’s attack on a Norwegian ship in Fujairah? Does anyone with common sense doubt that this effort shows a political plan with predefined objectives? At a time when the mullahs face a deep crisis of overthrow and are struggling with the scandal of failed terrorist plots in Europe, they are in dire need of further demonizing their main opposition. Now it appears that this investigative reporter has accepted this mandate from the heavens.

The DN editor writes:

In a democracy, both states, organizations and influential individuals must accept being exposed to investigative journalism. The best way to handle this is to answer the questions being asked.

This principle is worthy of respect and the PMOI have consistently respected it. But as a movement which has seen more than 100,000 of its members and supporters executed by the Iranian regime, and one which is constantly subjected to assassinations inside and outside the country, they have a right and a duty not to enter a framework that the Iranian regime and its security services have manufactured or are involved in. In July 2017, Iran’s former intelligence minister said that the regime uses the guise of journalists and businessmen to advance its intelligence plans and objectives.

In March 2018, the Iranian regime sought to bomb the PMOI Nowrouz (Persian New Year) gathering in Albania, which was discovered and thwarted. At least two of the perpetrators of the plot who had come to Albania as journalists were arrested and expelled. Prime Minister Eddie Rama exposed this plot on April 19, 2018. (See here

The editor expresses support for Mr. Engdal as an “award-winning journalist.” But with all due respect, the experiences of the past have shown that winning awards does not create immunity for professional misconduct.

The people of Norway remember well that Knut Hamsun was once the best writer in Norway, and also received the Nobel Prize in literature, but eventually collaborated with Nazi invaders, met with Hitler and Goebbels, and was prosecuted for collaboration with the enemy after the end of the war in Norway.

The scandal of Claas Relotius of Der Spiegel is barely six months old. He received 4 international journalism awards, which were much more prestigious than those obtained by Mr. Engdal. Yet Relotius managed to have more than 60 detailed fake reports using fictional characters published in Der Spiegel.
We are fully familiar with those Iranian regime intelligence agents who introduce themselves as former members of the PMOI. This may be unknown to an amateur journalist, but for someone who, according to the editor, has spent decades on investigative journalism, spending an hour of research can lead to the exposure and identification of these agents. The sources that Mr Engdal, using a hollow gesture of security, refers to as “a source” or a “defector” from the PMOI are mostly exposed by the Resistance itself. I will refer you to the following sources:

Mullahs’ intelligence dispatches agent to Albania as refugee to disrupt transfer of Camp Liberty residents

Ehsan Bidi, Iran Ministry of Intelligence agent in Albania,-iran-ministry-of-intelligence-agent-in-albania.html

Iranian regime dispatches intelligence agents to Europe to plot against dissidents

Tweets Reveal Mullahs Setting the Stage for Acts of Terrorism Against the Iranian Resistance

We, in the ISJ, are also familiar with the allegations and libels referred to in Mr. Engdal’s emails. Our colleagues have investigated these allegations one by one, and many of these investigations have been published. Various European and American delegations have visited Ashraf over the past decade, staying there for days and talking to residents face-to-face. In Albania, too, based on news reports, pictures and videos readily available on NCRI and PMOI websites, political and parliamentary delegations, journalists and religious and cultural figures have regularly visited PMOI centers in Albania, some of which are mentioned below.

None of the allegations, some of which were included in the text of a June 4 email by Engdal to the legal adviser of the PMOI in Albania, are true.

But one should not expect that when, without any prior notification, Mr Engdal appears alongside a well-known agent of the regime’s Ministry of Intelligence, Gjergji Thanasi, in front of the residence of the PMOI in Albania and proceeds to take photographs, the PMOI will simply welcome him. The clerical regime and its agents signify an impassable red line for the PMOI. It is worth noting that on March 22, 2018, two Iranian regime agents disguised as journalists were arrested photographing PMOI sites. The bomb plot orchestrated by these two individuals and its neutralization by Albania was announced, as I have already mentioned, by Prime Minister Eddie Rama on April 19, 2018.

Moreover, as the NCRI’s Representative Office in Oslo has rightfully stated, one cannot quote unknown individuals that make the most criminal accusations and slanders against a resistance movement and then demand an explanation from them on these matters. In democratic countries, even the police do not interrogate suspects of crimes the way Engdal attacks the PMOI.

Some of the reports regarding Ashraf in Iraq and Ashraf 3 in Albania can be found on the following sites. These reports clearly show how biased Engdal’s questions are. Nobody can believe that Mr. Engdal did not have access to the following documents:

German Parliamentarians Visit PMOI/MEK in Albania and Meet Local Politicians

People’s Mojahedin of Iran (PMOI) – Mission Report (European Parliament)

Iran’s Democratic Opposition- A report from Ashraf City

Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence and Security: A Profile
A Report Prepared by the Federal Research Division, Library of Congress

Spying for the Mullahs: Iran’s agents in UK

New ISJ report: “Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Active in Europe”

Conspiracy Against Iran’s Main Opposition Under the Guise of Commemorating the Life of an Albanian Poet

Meet the MEK: Iranian freedom fighters working to effect regime change

Washington Times reporter visits headquarters of PMOI/MEK Iranian opposition group in Albania

The reporter of Albanian Vision Plus TV channel visiting PMOI/MEK compound Ashraf3

European visit to Albania exposes Iran’s misinformation campaign

Ashraf III, Rising from the Ashes: Iranian Opposition Terrifies Tehran Rulers; A European Delegation Report

LIES & SPIES – How the Iranian Regime Has Tried to Demonize the Main Democratic Opposition Movement – April 2018 – By Struan Stevenson

If there is no specific political agenda, an investigative journalist can easily understand that the main source of defamation against the PMOI is the Iranian regime. The PMOI poses the only serious threat to the existence of the regime. It is a movement with 54 years of uninterrupted struggle against two dictatorships. Its leaders and founders were on multiple occasions killed by these two regimes. This movement has impressive organizational prowess, a well-defined political plan and platform, and members and cadres who believe in their cause with every fibre of their being and have paid the ultimate price. The PMOI is one of the few opposition movements in the world today to be fully financially self-sufficient and funded by its members, supporters, compatriots and freedom seeking people, and does not receive any money from any government. The faltering regime of the mullahs has found terrorism and demonization as the only way to confront such a movement. If Engdal had read the history of the Norwegian or French resistance against the occupation of Hitler, he would have found many examples where freedom fighters met similar accusations by the occupiers and their mercenaries to the ones faced by PMOI today.

One example of such demonization that Engdal pretends to have discovered through his investigative dexterity is when he writes:
A former member of the MEK says that MEK has destroyed her life and …accuses MEK for removing her ovaries – that way she could not give birth later.

The mere presentation of this charge without any mention of the name of the person concerned or the date of the alleged crimes attributed to the PMOI is extremely ridiculous and is appalling for anyone who is familiar with the history of the PMOI or anyone who has met even once the activist and honorable women in Ashraf.

But much like other instances, this accusation, too, has been invented since the beginning by the mullahs’ regime. The Fars News Agency of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) wrote 7 years ago that the “PMOI, in a horrific inhuman scenario, implemented a plan to sterilize women during the years of residency in Camp Ashraf in order to eliminate any maternal affection or the possible return of women to the conditions before.” (Fars News Agency November 14, 2012).
On the same day, the regime’s Mashreq News wrote: “More than 150 women were undergoing sterilization surgery.”

In March 2018, a well-known intelligence agent named Mohammad Jafari published on his exposed website named “Hamneshine Bahar (Companion of Spring)” a conversation with a woman, Fereshteh Khalaj Hedayati (60 years old), living in Norway, who was recently recruited by the Ministry of Intelligence to lie against the PMOI. Her revolting lies about “sterilization” were repeated with extraordinary clumsiness. In the eyes of the Iranian community, the issue was so worn-out and tired that the PMOI did not see the need to publish the documents, letters and the thick dossier of this woman’s ethical and medical records. If necessary, the ISJ will ask the NCRI to provide this document and all other documents to the DN editor or to make it public.

The documents of the collaboration of Mohammad Jafari with the mullahs’ Gestapo have been previously published in the book “Companion of the Evin Henchman” in January 2015.

If a selective approach, especially when it comes to journalism, is not the result of a reporter’s clumsiness, it would definitely indicate the existence of a political agenda and shows that there is no objectivity. The entire approach of DN and its reporter is selective. The selection of US colonel Wilkerson is one example. Posing questions about the MEK to a person who espoused their extradition to the Iranian regime and, consequently, the murdering of all of them, leaves no doubt about the goals of the reporter. This is while he would have been able to find the identities of dozens of generals and colonels of the US military through a simple Internet search, who are closely familiar with the MEK and who lived with them in Ashraf. ISJ representatives have met a large number of these officers in Ashraf and a larger number of them in the United States, Paris and Brussels.

Another example of this selective approach is finding a regime operative named Jeff Golberg and portraying him as an “American data scientist” to claim that the MEK is active on social networks with bots and fake news. A two-minute search on Google yields that Golberg is simply part of the network of regime lobbies in the United States, has no credibility, and even social networks have considered limitations for his activities. This is while social networking services such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, among others, have become irritated over the Iranian regime and its fake news webs and bots. Prior to Engdal, the clerical regime had commissioned a “friendly reporter” at Qatar’s Al Jazeera, whose special relations with the mullahs’ regime are well known, to cover up the regime’s tracks and claim that these allegations should instead be made against Iranian refugees in Albania. At the same time, Mohammad-Javad Zarif, the mullahs’ Foreign Affairs Minister, immediately called on Jack Dorsey (CEO of Twitter) in a tweet to close the MEK’s Twitter accounts in Albania instead of confronting the regime’s Twitter accounts (September 16, 2019). As part of the same scenario, now Mr Engdal has decided to jump on the bandwagon.

Alejo Vidal-Quadras
President, International Committee In Search of Justice (ISJ)