Ghosts, goblins, and VOA Persian News Network detractors.

Posted: 30 Oct 2010   Print   Send a link
Heritage Foundation, The Foundry blog, 25 Oct 2010, Helle Dale: "'What are the most effective actions the United States could take towards liberty for the Iranian people and political freedom for the Green Movement in Iran?' This was the question posed to Amir Abbas Fakhravar, Iranian dissident in exile in the United States, by the audience at a lunch hosted by the Heritage Foundation last week. 'Two things,' was his brief and blunt answer: Impose oil sanctions and reform Voice of America’s Persian News Network (PNN). ... According to Fakhvarar, VOA’s Persian service is only one of two outside networks reaching Iranian audiences—the other being the BBC’s Persian service. He further noted that VOA has an estimated 17 million listeners in Iran, a sizable audience share in a country of 72 million people. PNN has also come under severe criticism here in Washington for the kind of programming it provides its Iranian viewers and listeners, which has been accused by Members of Congress of being, in some instances, anti-American in sentiment. An example cited—and shown by Fahravar last week—is the 2007 YouTube music video made by two PNN employees, 'demoKracy,' an attack on American policies. ... [S]o charged is this issue for Iranians in political exile that they are calling for a protest at Voice of America on November 5." -- The underlined portion is a link to a no-longer-existing post at the VOA PNN Watchdog blog, operated by Amir Fakhravar.

PipeLineNews.org, 28 Oct 2010, Beila Rabinowitz: "Fakhravar ... cited as an example the fact that they [VOA Persian News Network] were displaying the Islamic Republic of Iran's flag on their website saying that 'I don't think the United States has any diplomatic relationship with the Islamic Republic.' U.S. government officials had been contacted and a change in VOA policy was anticipated soon." -- I don't see any Iranian flag at the VOA PNN home page. Photos of President Ahmadinejad, which occur occasionally in the coverage of Iranian news, often have an Iranian flag in the background.

WorldNetDaily, 29 Oct 2010, Larry Klayman: "[A]s Obama and his leftist comrades apologize for and disparage the nation overseas, what has the Republican establishment done to further freedom? Not one Republican establishment leader – and I have approached many – has even given a hoot that the Persian News Network of our Voice of America is being run by the son of an Islamic Iranian mullah, Ali Sajjadi, and that VOA is broadcasting anti-American and pro-Islamic regime programming into Iran and the rest of the Middle East. And let me name some names: Minority Leader John Boehner who, while finding time to cordially kiss and then offer to help Elham Sataki at Morton's restaurant on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. – Ms. Sataki being that beautiful and brave VOA broadcaster who was destroyed by Sajjadi for her pro-freedom views ... did nothing after that to save her. Nor did so-called conservative Republican Sen. Tom Coburn, whose staff I met with on several occasions to ask for help for Elham and the other courageous Persian television broadcasters at VOA who have been retaliated against by Sajjadi for their pro-freedom views. And, as for the general state of VOA, no one else in the Republican establishment has come forward to help reshape the network into the freedom-fighting force that, during the Reagan years, was instrumental in bringing down the communist Soviet empire – not even the Republicans who sit on VOA's Board of Governors who oversee the network. As a result, to get their attention, Freedom Watch is organizing a protest in front of VOA at 2 p.m. on Nov. 17, when Congress convenes after the elections, and you are all invited to attend. See www.freedomwatchusa.org."

FreedomWatch, 26 Oct 2010: "Freedom Watch and others have tried to help American politicians clean up VOA, but to no avail. Now, as the Iranian freedom movement needs our support more than ever, we must show these politicians that they need to take action to restore VOA as the voice of freedom. Please join us in protest to restore VOA to greatness: to have Seyed Ali Sajjadi removed and replaced with a manager who will further Persian freedom and create stability for world peace."

It's Halloween, which might explain why they've suddenly come out of the woodwork.

First, interesting that Fakhvarar has declared VOA PNN and BBC Persian to be the only two outside sources of information to Iran. That should delight the folks at Radio Farda.

Seventeen million listeners for VOA PNN? I'm no Heritage Foundation expert, but, actually, they're mostly viewers. And with an audience that large, it's one of the most successful services in the history of US international broadcasting. Obviously, it must be reformed.

Then, for all the complaints about the alleged anti-American nature of VOA PNN, the only example Ms. Dale could cite is a three-year-old, since resolved, music video by a maverick employee?

And is this demonstration going to be on the 5th or 17th of November? Whichever date, they may have to compete with Ethiopian pickup truck bullhorn man, who stops by VOA every few days to yell at the building.

I propose a solution. In many languages of US international broadcasting, two stations transmit: VOA and a "Radio Free" station. In theory, VOA limits itself to news about the United States and the world in general, and the surrogate station provides news about the target country. In reality, the theory is absurd, because it forces the audience to tune to two stations get complete news coverage.

A less crazy dichotomy for US international broadcasting to Iran would be for one television channel to broadcast objective, reliable, comprehensive news. That would be VOA PNN. Another channel can devote itself to screeds that are anti-Tehran and pro whichever of the several Iranian exile factions that manages to get control of the station. This channel would be unabashedly biased. It might have content called "news," which is to say it's not really news.

Both channels can be beamed into Iran using a comparable array of satellites. After a year or so, audience research, which can be conducted, after a fashion, in Iran, would determine which channel Iranian viewers prefer. Because it's a matter of letting the market decide, the Heritage Foundation should go for the idea.