The British government has rebuked broadcaster Channel 4 for airing a Christmas message from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose previous dismissal of the Holocaust and refusal to abandon the pursuit of a nuclear capability have caused international dismay.
Channel 4 invited Ahmadinejad to deliver its annual “alternative Christmas message,” which was broadcast on Christmas Day. In a break with tradition, however, the network did not schedule his address at the same time as the queen delivered her own annual Christmas message.
A spokesman for the British foreign office said the invitation would likely cause “offense and bemusement” and that the broadcast’s negative impact would be felt on an international scale.
“President Ahmadinejad has during his time in office made a series of appalling anti-Semitic statements,” a spokeswoman said.
“The British media are rightly free to make their own editorial choices, but this invitation will cause offense and bemusement not just at home but amongst friendly countries abroad.”
Ahmadinejad used the platform to call on Britons to direct themselves to the messages of the prophets, and he blamed the complex problems the world is facing on “the indifference of some governments and powers toward the teachings of the divine prophets, especially those of Jesus Christ.”
In what some have read as an attack on the U.S., he added: “If Christ were on Earth today, undoubtedly he would fight against the tyrannical policies of prevailing global economic and political systems, as he did in his lifetime.”
Channel 4 head of news Dorothy Byrne defended the broadcast, saying the Iranian premier’s views were important.
“As the leader of one of the most powerful states in the Middle East, President Ahmadinejad’s views are enormously influential. As we approach a critical time in international relations, we are offering our viewers an insight into an alternative world view.”