The UK’s opposition Labour Party, embroiled in a months-long battle over accusations of anti-Semitism within its ranks, is facing questions over how one of its members was apparently able to report for an Iranian state TV channel from a meeting where a pro-Israel lawmaker lost a confidence vote.
The UK arm of Press TV posted images and footage to social media from a private meeting of the Enfield North constituency Labour party (CLP) in north London on Thursday night, where members passed a motion of no-confidence in Joan Ryan by 94 votes to 92. Ryan, who was first elected to the UK parliament in 1997, is chair of the Labour Friends of Israel parliamentary caucus.
According to Labour party rules, the media are not allowed to report from constituency meetings and members are not supposed to broadcast or film them.
The chairman of the local Labour branch called on the national party to step in. “This is totally unacceptable. In my capacity as Chair, I’ll be writing to formally complain to Press TV for their broadcasting of our meeting,” Siddo Dwyer, chair of Enfield North Labour said on Twitter. “The national Labour Party has been informed about filming by Iranian state TV of our CLP meeting. An investigation will take place and a formal complaint lodged.”
A spokesman for the UK Labour Party said the issue was a matter for its local branch. “Filming of local Labour Party meetings is not permitted, and Enfield North will be reminded of this fact.”
A Press TV spokesman told CNN that the person who filmed the event is a Labour Party member. But the organization declined to say whether that member is also a Press TV employee.
“[A]t no point were we asked to stop filming at last night’s Joan Ryan vote even though we filmed openly,” the Press TV spokeperson told CNN via Twitter private messages. “We would have stopped had we been asked to. There were no ‘no filming’ posters up & there was no public announcement. We just did our reporting job.”
Dwyer provided a different version of events. “Warnings were issued about filming, including a direct warning to the member in question,” he wrote in a public post on Twitter. “It didn’t occur to any of us at the time that they were from a state broadcaster.” (Dwyer later appeared to have taken his Twitter account offline.)
The Press TV spokesperson said the Labour member who recorded its footage was not approached.
Press TV lost its UK broadcast license in 2012 for breaching several broadcasting rules including that editorial decisions were being controlled by the offices in Tehran and not in the UK. The UK broadcasting regulator Ofcom had previously fined the network for airing an interview with imprisoned journalists, which the regulator said at the time was conducted “under duress.”
Press TV often reports critically on Israel and the Iranian government does not recognize Israel, supporting anti-Israel demonstrations where protestors often chant “death to Israel.”
The Labour Party has spent the past few months engulfed by a heated internal debate on anti-Semitism. The party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong supporter of the Palestinian cause, has been accused of fostering an atmosphere that has allowed anti-Semitic sentiments to prevail. Corbyn denies this, pointing to his record as an antiracist campaigner.