Pro-Iran propaganda on 5 News
Sep 20, 2021 | Ran Porat
Sydney-based 5 News (5news.com.au) is a news and views online platform in English and Urdu managed by Star Media, which bills itself as the “Multicultural News Network of Australia.” The Facebook page of the website had close to 9,000 followers as of August 2021.The Urdu version of the website is edited by Alamdar Hussain Tabassum.
A handful of public figures and politicians have appeared on 5 News, apparently viewing it as a legitimate media platform. NSW Labor MP for Lakemba Jihad Dib had an election ad video that aired on 5 News. He was also interviewed on June by 5 News reporter Sofiana Rose about his work for Lakemba. In April 2021, Rose also hosted NSW Labor MP Julia Finn at the 5 News studios to speak about her experience of sexual assault. In November 2020, former Greens Senator Lee Rhiannon was interviewed regarding her activism on Kashmir.
One concerning aspect of 5 News is the executive producer of 5 News English, Hanif Bismi, who also hosts his own program on the channel. According to his bio, Bismi was born in India and migrated to Australia in 1988. He is a graduate in accounting and finance and works for the Australian government. He also holds a post-graduate degree in Middle Eastern religion and history from Charles Sturt University, and a university certificate in Iran studies from University of Sydney and is a research student at Western Sydney University.
In 2016 he was elected as one of the Vice Presidents of the Multicultural Eid Festival & Fair (MEFF). He says he is an advisor to the not-for-profit Australian Relief Organisation. In 2018 Bismi was featured in an Affinity Intercultural Foundation event as the Director of the Australian Institute of Islamic Affairs. However, as of 2021, there was no record of such a body in the Australian Business Register, nor does there appear to be any online presence for this organisation.
Bismi is a member of the media group of the Indian Crescent Society of Australia for Muslim residents of Australia of Indian origin. This group is coordinated by Zia Ahmad, Editor of the Australian Muslim Times (AMUST) – a news outlet that publishes Bismi’s writing on a regular basis. In a July 2019 ceremony, Dib awarded Bismi the AMUST writers’ award.
In his talk show on 5 News, Bismi hosts distinguished guests such as Auburn Police Commander Superintendent Adam Johnson, community activists and more. Bismi has also forged a connection with Rabbi Zalman Kastel AM, National Director of the interfaith organisation Together for Humanity. The latter took Bismi on a tour of Sydney’s Emanuel Synagogue, a visit that was aired on Bismi’s show in October 2020.
Admirer of Raisi and Iran’s “democracy”
Bismi is an enthusiastic supporter of the regime in Teheran and a favourite commentator for the Iranian embassy in Canberra, which regularly recommends followers read his material. Covering the 2018 annual Sydney event celebrating the anniversary of Iran’s 1979 Islamic revolution, Bismi proudly posed for a photo with Iran’s Ambassador to Australia, Abdul Hussein Vahaji.
On his Facebook page, Bismi republishes posts by Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei. In June he congratulated Iran for electing as President Ebrahim Raisi, widely known as the “Butcher of Teheran”, who is responsible for the summary execution of thousands of Iranians. In another post, Bismi argued that a “large majority of the people [of]… Iran elected current President [Raisi].” In fact, fewer than half of Iranian voters participated in the elections this year, the lowest rate since the 1979 revolution. Raisi received only 30% (18 million out of 59 million) support from eligible voters, while 3 million votes were disqualified as “informal” protest votes.
For his show on 5 News in June, Bismi chose to interview Dr. Yahya Jahangiri, Raisi’s election campaign manager. Bismi hailed the “democratic elections” of Raisi as “a great achievement”. He neglected to mention that Raisi’s election was pre-arranged by the regime, which disqualified anyone who could seriously challenge Raisi from running. Bismi also ‘forgot’ to ask Jahangiri about Iran’s nuclear weapons program or its support for and export of terrorism. Jahangiri claimed that Raisi was a human rights “activist” whose image was being tarnished by the Western media. Bismi was quick to agree, stating that “of course, I understand that [the] media are [casting] a dark shade on [the regime] since the Islamic republic was established.”
Despite decades of brutal human rights violations by the regime, Bismi claimed in August on 5 News that “Western media has always portrayed Iran as an example of a nation with the worst record of human rights. But Iran proved this narrative to be false propaganda and how it did this is an eye-opener for the rest of the world.”
Bismi and the Al-Tajamu network
Bismi’s activities are in line with the messages coming out from the Australian branch of Al-Tajamu, one of Iran’s international propaganda organisations. Moreover, Bismi has also participated in events associated with Al-Tajamu Australia’s network.
For example, in June, Bismi was one of the speakers in the webinar “American Human Rights from Australian analysts’ point of view”. Other speakers included disgraced pro-Iranian academic Tim Anderson and Iranians Yahya Jahangiri, Raisi’s campaign manager, and Ebrahim Azizi, a former spokesperson for the regime’s powerful committee of hardliners, the Guardian Council, and currently the Vice-Chairman of the parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission.
One of Al-Tajamu’s central events where Bismi is a regular attendee is the annual February Sydney celebration of the anniversary of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khamenei’s 1979 revolution. The full video of the February 2020 event was uploaded to 5 News, while in 2015 and again in 2018 Bismi reported about the event for AMUST.
In the 2021 event, also covered by 5 News, Bismi lectured about the “democratic process of elections” in Iran and heaped praise on Iran’s Supreme Leader, saying that “no other nation can have a leader like Khamenei.”
Hanif Bismi’s son, Talib Bismi, provided the coverage for 5 News of a January 2020 event in Sydney to mourn the killing by the US of arch-terrorist Qassim Soleimani, commander of Iran’s al-Quds force, and Shi’ite militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Talib’s coverage praised the event and amplified the message of the speakers.
Talib Bismi interviewed speakers and audience members at the event. Hussein Dirani, the head of Al-Tajamu Australia, told Talib that the blood of the two killed by the US “will remove the American tyrant from the Middle East.” Prominent Al-Tajamu member Jay Tharappel was also interviewed in that report. Another interviewee declared that “The American Zionists [sic] empires are on their knees and are on their way out of the Middle East.”
Hanif Bismi himself was interviewed by Talib as a participant in the event (though he is not identified in the video), telling him that by killing Soleimani and al-Muhandis “America attacked humanity” and calling the US a “war criminal”.
Bismi reacted to the killing of the head of Iran’s secret nuclear weapons program, Mohsen Fakhrizadeh (November 2020) in an article published on 5 News in April 2021. In the article titled “Assassination of most senior nuclear scientist will not break Iran’s willpower”, Bismi praised Iran as a country which “stood against American hegemony and inspired many nations in the region to do the same,” while saying “America used 9/11 as an excuse to invade and to destroy Muslim counties [sic].”
The article also justified Iran developing nuclear weapons. Facing “provocative action” from Israel and because “Iran is encircled by US military bases in the region,” argued Bismi, “it’s reasonable to presume… Iran does utilizeevery [sic] deterrent including developing its nuclear technology.”
In next month’s AIR, I will review Bismi’s Australian Muslim Times stories and the conspiracy theories he advances in support of Teheran’s agenda in Australia.