The Iranian regime’s Spanish language news channel HispanTV, which portrays terrorism as “resistance” and is actively involved in incitement and disinformation campaigns in Latin America raises concern, U.S.-based think tank Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) indicated in a late 2023 report.
“Tehran maintains an international propaganda and disinformation campaign, which seeks to discredit Israel and the Jewish communities of the Diaspora, presenting them as villains,” Luis Fleischman, sociology and political sciences professor at Palm Beach State University in Florida, told Diálogo on November 29.
HispanTV targets Spanish-speaking audiences worldwide and broadcasts its content through a variety of platforms, from satellite and cable retransmissions to live transmissions, as well as through its web and social media platforms, according to FDD.
Despite facing recurring accusations of policy violations of platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and X (formerly Twitter), which has led to the temporary closure of its accounts on multiple occasions since 2018, Iran has learned to adapt and deploy strategies to maintain its online presence and retain its audience, news platform Latinoamérica 21 reported.
Iran has diversified its channels to host its content, apart from the main platform HispanTV, with the aim of minimizing information loss. In addition, it developed its own version of YouTube called Urmedium, where there is no Western censorship, Latinoamérica 21 reported.
This state-owned media seeks to disseminate Iran’s culture and political actions to foreign audiences, distorting conventional Western narratives about Tehran, FDD indicated. Since October 7, it has focused on glorifying Palestinian resistance and obscuring Hamas atrocities.
“Iran’s strategy of influence in Latin America is rooted in the proximity to the United States,” Fleischman said. “This ideological approach is part of its confrontation with the U.S., which starts with Israel, considered the gateway in this struggle.”
Hatred and lies
Following the Hamas terrorist group’s massacre in Israel, HispanTV launched an extensive disinformation campaign on all its platforms, FDD indicated. Pablo Jofre Leal, one of its commentators, defended the attack as a “legitimate right to self-defense” and accused other media of distorting the Palestinian resistance.
These actions attracted the attention of Melissa Fleming, under-secretary-general for Global Communications at the United Nations, who highlighted concerns about the spread of hatred and lies in times of conflict, “resulting in dangerous mistakes with real-time and real-world consequences.”
The rapid advance of unconfirmed rumors from encrypted messages to broader platforms complicates verification, Fleming said. In addition, digital tools that enable the spread of fakes and the existence of bots that mimic public personalities add to the confusion and misinformation.
Cybersecurity experts such as Dan Brahmy, president of the Tel Aviv-based intelligence company Cyabra, warned U.S. magazine Politico on October 10 about “an unusual flow of millions of content on social networks, three to four times greater than usual,” generating concern about a possible increase in violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he said.
This disinformation effort, according to the Washington-based Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS), are coordinated with the help of state media such as Russia’s RT en Español and Venezuela’s Telesur and allied social media accounts. The narratives are propagated by funded “super broadcasters,” delivering a unified message.
For the INSS, this constant campaign is also essential to maintain the high legitimacy of the Maduro regime and the Bolivarian Joint Criminal Enterprise (BJCE) in the hemisphere. As such Iranian influence ascended in Latin American media, moving from the periphery to the mainstream.
These narratives lack Islamic religious content but incite an alliance against the United States and challenge regional interests in favor of stability and democracy, INSS warns. “This convergence reveals an alliance between Islamic radicalism and the Latin American radical left,” Fleischman said.
Confusion and distress
“Hamas’s actions are inhumane. Although they claim to care about civilians, the actual atrocities are obvious, even filmed and broadcast by the terrorists themselves. This creates confusion among people, who struggle with which media to believe in the face of these depressing facts,” Fleischman said.
In times of anguish and concern, it is essential to turn to a variety of reliable and independent sources, he added. “However, we must keep in mind that not all media outlets have the willingness or ability to provide a complete and accurate view of events,” Fleming concluded.