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Iran launches 'alternative' news

By Amir A. Daftari for CNN
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(CNN) -- Iran has launched its own 24-hour news channel in English.

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Iranian President Ahmadinejad, at the Press TV opening ceremony.

The satellite channel, called Press TV, is sponsored by Iran's state-run television operation, Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) and is aiming "to break the stranglehold of the West over the world's media."

The channel plans to compete with other 24-hour English-language satellite channels like the BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera International, which is based in Qatar.

"Press TV plans to present a new perspective to its viewers around the world," said Muhammad Sarafraz, the deputy director for international affairs, the Mehr News Agency reported.

"Iran and Shiite Muslims in particular have become a focal point of world propaganda. From a media point of view, we are trying to give a second eye to Western audiences," Sarafraz said.

Press TV's Web site says the channel has 400 staff and 26 reporters worldwide. Some of its correspondents are based in Washington, New York, London, Beirut and Damascus, it says.

Among them is Yvonne Ridley, who broadcasts out of Press TV's London bureau.

A former journalist for Britain's Sunday Express, Ridley converted to Islam after being captured by the Taliban, whilst reporting in Afghanistan.

"Press TV offers independent news without an edge ... we are just reporting the news as we see it." Ridley told CNN.

But experts question Press TV's capacity to attract many viewers worldwide.

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Dr. Alireza Nurizadeh, the head of the Center for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, says Iran's other international channels have failed to draw a global audience.

"Iran has spent millions of dollars in the past years to set up channels such as Sahar or Al-Alam," he said. "But, unfortunately, these investments have brought no results. The Islamic republic has never succeeded in attracting viewers who want to watch or to hear alternative news."

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Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, inaugurated Press TV during the channels official unveiling.

"Press TV should stay beside the oppressed people of the world ... Broadcasting the truth immediately, providing precise analysis and exposing the plots of propaganda networks of the enemy is among its duties." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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