The Washington Times hopes Tehran keeps jamming VOA (updated).

Posted: 15 Apr 2010   Print   Send a link
"The Voice of America is becoming the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Recent programming choices have revealed a creeping bias toward opponents of the pro-democracy movement and de facto supporters of the regime. This ill befits the VOA mission and the purpose of U.S. public diplomacy. ... Cases in point are two recent VOA broadcasts that gave preferred treatment to pro-regime messages. On March 29, VOA-PNN interviewed Hooshang Amir-Ahmadi, an anti-sanctions activist called 'Iran's pseudo U.S. lobbyist' by Iranian democracy groups. ... On April 1, VOA gave airtime to Trita Parsi, head of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC), which has received millions of dollars in federal funds to promote democracy in Iran. Mr. Parsi expressed various odd positions, such as that Israel prefers to have hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in power in Tehran, that members of the Obama administration know sanctions won't work but pursue them only as a bargaining position, and - most strangely - that even if Iran succeeded in establishing a democracy, the United States would nevertheless keep sanctions in place. ... These events should be hot topics when the Senate Foreign Relations Committee holds hearings on nominations for new members of the broadcasting board. Meanwhile, if VOA is telling Iranians struggling for freedom that resistance is futile, we hope Tehran keeps jamming it." Editorial, Washington Times, 14 April 2010. Is the Washington Times' news coverage similar to that which it would foist on VOA? If so, this might explain the newspaper's sinking fortunes. The subject of sanctions against any country is subject to debate. If the Washington Times and certain politicians want VOA to interview only those people with whom they agree, the result will be a broadcast service akin to those in many of VOA's target countries.
     Update: "The airing of all voices is a critical component of PNN's programming, which is driven by the news and events of the day. As is the policy at any reputable journalistic entity, PNN does not guarantee regular coverage to any individual or group. This approach is succeeding-PNN programming draws some of the biggest audiences of U.S. international broadcasting and is seen weekly by almost 30% of Iranian television viewers." VOA director Danforth W. Austin, response to the Washington Times, VOA press release, 15 April 2010. See previous post about same subject.
     "A recent report, released without fanfare by the Administration and required by Congress in the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (VOICE Act, part of Public Law 111-84, otherwise known as the National Defense Authorization Act), shows audiences for PNN and other information properties of the Broadcasting Board of Governors, overseer of America's non-military broadcasting, continue to grow. Perhaps The Washington Times believes these numbers or false or misleading." Matt Armstrong, MountainRunner.us, 15 April 2010.
     "An April 12 conference held in Washington assessed Iran’s social-networking sphere. ... Hida Fouladvand, who works for VOA Persian News Network TV, explored the importance of international broadcasting for Iranian bloggers, saying that the events of the past year have demonstrated 'when the Iranians want to pursue information, they have ways to do it.' Fouladvand related that there were 22 million visits to the VOA Persian website during the past year, adding that VOA listeners were no longer mostly older people. Instead, 70 percent of those accessing the site in recent months are 30 years old or under. To best address this audience, VOA is using social-networking tools to reach them--including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube--as well as more traditional TV and radio broadcasts." Richard Weitz, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Eurasianet, 13 April 2010 See also RFE/RL Off Mic blog, 16 Apr 2010.
     "Iranian Activist: Since much of the formal media is closed to us and has been closed to us for years, much of it even before Ahmadinejad, we have learned how to get our message out through alternative means, like website, social networking sites, emails and email list serves and also through Persian language media based outside the country. ... [P]roxies rarely work in Iran. They have often been difficult but after the elections they have become more problematic. For example, you can open the first page, but then can't go into any of the links on the sites. So now people are using programs such as freegate (which is limited) or ultrasurf or puff. These programs allow you to bypass filters. People also use vpns [virtual private networks], but recently there was a major crackdown on those providing vpns inside Iran and many have been arrested." Interviewed by Iran Davar Ardalan, NewsTilt, 14 April 2010.