Media in Iran have criticized President Ebrahim Raisi for evading significant questions during his recent televised, including on the issue of nuclear talks.
The much-advertised interview broadcast by Channel One of the state-run television in a prime time slot had nothing new and concrete to offer, critics of the hardline president say. They allege that the interview was held in a highly controlled "green-house environment", questions were dictated by the interviewee, and it was a "monologue" and propaganda event rather than a real, challenging interview.
"Green-house interviews may shield the President from the harms of exposure to the media sun, rain, and wind. But this makes him equally vulnerable as he may catch a cold even if a small media breeze suddenly gets through a window!" Reformist Etemad daily wrote Tuesday.
The conservative Jomhouri Eslami newspaper also warned that officials of the Islamic Republic will never be able to convince the public as long as they avoid interviews with free and independent journalists.
The hardliner media affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard and ruling circles have stayed mostly silent about the TV program.
Many have also pointed out that the interviewer repeatedly sang praises of the Raisi administration and its "achievements" while posing his questions. "Niceties [by the presenter] were so exaggerated that it appeared as if an employee is paying lip service to his employer," conservative Asr-e Iran website charged in a commentary Monday entitled "This Is Not an Interview, It's a PR Talk Between Boss and Civil Servant".
The presenter only asked about the nuclear talks in Vienna towards the end of the one-hour talk, to which Raisi gave a very general and short answer.
He avoided referring to the revival of the 2015 nuclear deal, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and only talked about the importance of "lifting of sanctions", a matter of great importance to the Iranian economy, which nevertheless needs an agreement with the United States.
The conservative Jomhouri Eslami newspaper and some other media outlets have also criticized the president for offering completely irrelevant answers to some pre-determined questions.
Raisi told his audience there was no money in the government's coffers when it was handed over to him and claimed that notwithstanding the fact, his administration managed to pay civil servants' salaries without borrowing from the Central Bank. When asked how the government managed this, he responded that the government must harness tax evasion and sell government assets such as real estate that are not in active use.
"The presenter had not asked about your plans to secure budgetary resources, he was asking how this could happen in the three months [since you took office]," Asr-e Iran website asked in another commentary Monday entitled "What Was Raisi's Response to the Most Important Question?"
In fact, Iran’s former central bank chief Abdolnasser Hemmati said after Raisi’s TV talk, that the government has simply borrowed for state and quasi-state banks and they in turn borrowed money from the central bank. He said this is tantamount to printing more money, which the new government has pledged not to do.