VOA Persian tilts in favor of Tehran? (updated)

Posted: 15 Feb 2010   Print   Send a link
"An internal struggle within the Voice of America (VOA) over its news coverage of Iran is spewing outside the agency as veteran staffers claim the channel tilts coverage in favor of the Tehran regime. The divisions erupted in late January when VOA chiefs removed a popular TV anchorman from the flagship U.S. broadcast into Iran, after he and about 30 Persian-speaking broadcasters had a confrontational meeting with VOA Director Danforth Austin, Newsmax has learned. ... Scott Carpenter, a former deputy assistant secretary of state, severely criticized VOA’s Persian language broadcasting during congressional testimony last week. ... VOA managers trim coverage to eliminate anything that the regime might view as threatening, he said. 'To cite just one example, on the day after the death of Ayatollah Montazeri, when the BBC Persian Service was blanketing Iranian airwaves with coverage similar to that given in the United States to pop star Michael Jackson's passing last summer, PNN was airing documentaries on global warming. Indicative of its lack of impact is the fact that (Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali) Khamenei rails against the BBC Persian Service but rarely mentions VOA.' [VOA Persian acting director Alex] Belida called that claim 'nonsense,' and said VOA 'devoted extensive coverage to Montazeri’s death and its impact.'" Ken Timmerman, Newsmax.com, 11 February 2010. We'll see if media more mainstream than Newsmax pick up this story. Some believe that news on US international broadcasting outlets should emphasize negative news about the target country's regime, or engage in outright advocacy.
     Scott Carpenter (mentioned above) testified at "America and the Iranian Political Reform Movement: First, Do No Harm," hearing of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and South Asia, 3 February 2010, with link to webcast. See also transcript of testimony by Mehdi Khalaji and J. Scott Carpenter, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, 3 February 2010.
     Update: The link to Timmerman's article at the Newsmax site no longer works, but it is still available at Medya News, 12 February 2010. See on this separate page the answers provided by VOA Persian News Network acting director Alex Belida to questions submitted by Ken Timmerman. Very little from Belida's responses was used in Timmerman's article. See also response (pdf) by VOA edecutive editor Steve Redisch.
     United States District Court (DC) rules against a POV (contract employee) of VOA Persian, who sued the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, alleging a hostile work environment and discriminatory non-selection. Leagle, 12 February 2010.