The Voice of America has become Voice of Tehran (updated)
Fresh from declaring NASA's mission to be outreach towards and glorification of Islam, comes news that the Voice of America-long a beacon of hope to oppressed people around the world-has become a big mouthpiece for the mullahs via with the administration's "help."
Voice of America's mission is to promote U.S. interests abroad, which includes freedom in Iran. But VOA's Persian newscast has been hijacked by pro-Tehran broadcasters.The Obama administration's sole strategy for defanging the Ahmadinejad regime is talk and more talk. Only, the propaganda that VOA is piping into Iran is helping the regime - thanks to deep-seated bias in favor of Tehran by Persian editors and producers whose salaries are paid by American taxpayers.They've banned stories that cast the regime in a negative light, such as last year's violent postelection crackdown on protesters in Tehran. They even refused for several days to air video footage of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young Iranian woman whose murder became an international cause celebre.More, VOA has retaliated against broadcasters who've complained it's too soft on the Iranian regime. One popular Persian-speaking broadcaster lost her anchoring job, having been demoted by a managing editor who happens to be the son of one of the Iranian mullahs.Elham Sataki, former Washington-based anchor of VOA's "Straight Talk," says she was a victim of an effort to silence her pro-American, pro-democratic-reform views. She's now suing her boss - Ali Sajjadi, executive managing editor of VOA's Persian News Network - and other VOA defendants for millions.On VOA/PNN's show "Static," Sajjadi admitted his father is an Iranian mullah. And in response to a question from a viewer, he trashed the Iranian opposition movement by saying that it was not his job to support the opposition. Sajjadi added it doesn't need support since it gets "a lot of grants these days" - grants being regime code word for CIA money.Recent reporting flaws have prompted calls from Congress for an investigation of VOA's Persian desk. "We implore you to investigate the anti-American rhetoric reported to be coming from Voice of America - Persian," Rep. Trent Franks earlier this year wrote President Obama. The letter was signed by 68 other lawmakers.
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. VOA gave Mr. Parsi preferential treatment by banning callers while he was on the air even though he appeared on a call-in show; those who later took issue with his views were quickly cut off.Mr. Parsi was the subject of an investigation by the Senate federal financial management subcommittee, which revealed that most of the federal funds received by NIAC were not used for their intended purpose and that he was working with a regime-controlled front posing as an Iranian nongovernmental organization. These and other developments have generated buzz in the pro-democracy Iranian blogosphere that VOA has become a pro-mullah outlet.
Republican Sens. Jon Kyl of Arizona, Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Sam Brownback of Kansas sent a letter to Broadcasting Board of Governors Executive Director Jeffrey N. Trimble on March 9 noting that such White House intervention constitutes "serious violations of U.S. law, policy and tradition related to the editorial independence of the taxpayer-funded" board of governors.
Update: The Voice of America Responds to "Axis of Evil" editorial:
To the question posed in the editorial "Axis of Evil," the managers at VOA's Persian News Network (PNN) work exclusively for the Voice of America and diligently carry out its congressional mandate to provide our audience with accurate, objective and comprehensive news and information.
The Voice of America does not ban stories because they cast the Iranian regime in a negative light. In fact the extensive efforts by the Tehran government to jam our TV and radio programs and block access to our website are a testament to our success in Iran, where despite those government efforts we have a weekly audience estimated at nearly 20% of the adult population.
It is also untrue that VOA refused to air video of the tragic death of Neda Agha-Soltan, the young Iranian woman whose killing became a symbol of opposition to the Iranian regime. To the contrary, VOA's Persian News Network was one of the first international news organizations to show cell phone video of the incident.
While VOA cannot comment on personnel matters involving PNN staff, your allegations of "retaliation" are untrue, as is the often repeated allegation that one of PNN's managing editors is biased toward Iran and is the "son of one of the Iranian mullahs." In fact, this man's father is a former university professor who was forced to retire after the revolution. The TV show "Parazit" (Static) is a satirical program. Mr. Sajjadi was making fun of this unfounded claim.
Regarding the lawsuit against VOA brought by former "Straight Talk" news-reader Elham Sataki, the Federal District Court has already denied Ms. Sataki's motion for a temporary restraining order and specifically found that she is "unlikely to succeed on the merits" of her claim.
The Voice of America takes its congressional mandate seriously and the professional journalists here reject the allegation that we are serving any particular point of view, something forbidden by our charter.
For more information about the Voice of America, please visit our website at,http://www.voanews.com/.