Iranian protesters feel let down by VOA and Radio Farda – BBG Watch

Iranian protesters feel let down by VOA and Radio Farda

BBG Watch Commentary

An Iranian coordinator of anti-regime protests in Iran who is now in exile told The Media Line in exclusive interviews, which also included instant messaging comments from other protest coordinators based in Iran that Iranian demonstrators who want a peaceful transition of power are not satisfied with Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda program content for and about Iran.

Both VOA and RFE/RL are managed by Obama administration holdover officials in the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) agency with its annual budget of $740 million (FY 2017).

Responding to a question from The Media Line, the Iranian protest coordinator, who is known as “Behrouz,” said that “the talk and interviews” on Voice of America and Radio Farda “are with those who want improvement of the regime and not removal of the regime.

“We are not satisfied with VOA and Radio Farda,” the Iranian protest coordinator said.

Behrouz and others told The Media Line that they are working toward non-violent regime change in Iran.

“If we could have a satellite channel ourselves, we could make miracles,” Behrouz said.

The Media Line: The Iranian government has blocked social media platforms. VOA continues to broadcast. Is it information you can count on?
 
Behrouz: We are not satisfied with VOA and Radio Farda. The talk and interviews are with those who want improvement of the regime and not removal of the regime.
 
If we could have a satellite channel ourselves, we could make miracles.

READ MORE: The Youth Behind the Demonstration. By Felice Friedson | The Media Line, January 3, 2018.

 
Even as the Iranian demonstrators were being killed by the security forces, the Voice of America was prominently featuring on its VOA English news homepage a sympathetic profile of President Hassan Rouhani and was quoting at some length warnings and obvious lies of Iranian regime leaders without any substantial challenge or balance.
 

BBG WATCH

 

The Voice of Iranian Mullahs from VOA in Washington

 

Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett at VOA 75 Anniversary in 2016


 
BBG Watch Commentary

January 3, 2018

Screenshot of VOA Middle East Homepage, January 2, 2018.

The U.S. taxpayer-funded ($224 million FY 2017) Voice of America (VOA), still run by Obama administration holdover appointees in the dysfunctional Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency, which even Hillary Clinton once called “practically defunct,” not only posted in recent days several reports in which Iranian regime officials told at length Iranian demonstrators to behave, threatened them and lied about “foreign agents,” but in a visual display of clueless pro-Iranian regime propaganda, VOA even arranged its English news homepage to look at one point yesterday like “The Voice of the Iranian Mullahs” and posted a highly sympathetic profile of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani.

VOA Middle East Homepage Tuesday looked more like “The Voice of The Iranian Mullahs” than “The Voice of America” with multiple images of Iranian regime leaders, sympathetic profile of Iranian President Rouhani and other regime-focused reports. The Broadcasting Board of Governors agency still in the hands of another Obama administration holdover appointee, John F. Lansing, has an annual budget of $740 million (FY 2017), including VOA.

VOA should have been profiling instead “An Iranian Female Protester.” VOA could have also profited “A Protesting Iranian Worker” or simply “The Iranian Uprising.” Better yet, all three. A profile of Rouhani can be easily found on Wikipedia.

SEE: Voice of America to Iranians: Government Wants You to Behave, BBG Watch, January 2, 2018.

 

SEE: As Voice of America director brags, Twitter users call VOA ‘Voice of Iranian Dictators,‘ BBG Watch, January 2, 2018.

 

But that is not how Voice of America director Amanda Bennett, an Obama administration holdover appointee, sees what VOA is doing. She has expressed her satisfaction in a Facebook post in how VOA has been covering the anti-regime demonstrations in Iran even though for the first days of the protests VOA English News did not have the Iran story on its homepage (BBC and DW did), VOA Persian Service was late in starting to post videos from the protests, and both VOA English and VOA Persian were more than two hours late reporting on the White House statement on Iran Sunday night. Her boss, BBG CEO John Lansing, another Obama administration holdover appointee, has also expressed pride in how the agency is engaging in unbiased journalism and accused critics of not being good journalists.

“Considering that this all happened on a major holiday when we were working with a skeleton staff, I think we’re doing pretty good,” Amanda Bennett wrote in her Facebook post, but Twitter users left numerous highly critical comments under a Voice of America tweet for an earlier VOA English News report “Iranian Official Blames ‘Foreign Agents’ for Protester Deaths.”

“Replying to @VOANews: I remember when the voice of America opposed tyrannical regimes instead of spreading their talking points. You are a disgrace,” was a typical comment. Another comment was: “Change your name to ‘Voice of Rouhani’ and get your funding from the Ayatollahs!”

There was also this comment under the VOA tweet: “Replying to @VOANews: Well, at least you’re ensuring the murderous regime of killers get their side told #whatsideareyouon”

For a different perspective SEE:

Voice of America takes more than two hours to post a White House statement on Iran, BBG Watch, January 1, 2018.

 

Voice of America highlights dying roosters and Iran regime propaganda as protesting Iranians die, BBG Watch, December 31, 2017.

 

END OF BBG WATCH COMMENTARY

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VOICE OF AMERICA

 

Profile: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani

 
MIDDLE EAST

January 02, 2018 3:37 PM

VOA News

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who is frequently described as a relative moderate, was re-elected last year.

He is the seventh president of Iran and has served in that position since Aug. 3, 2013.

In 2013, Time magazine included the 69-year-old Rouhani in its list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

The long-time member of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s inner circle emerged a few years ago as an historic figure as he took action to normalize relations within Iran and in its interactions with the rest of the world.

After an easy re-election victory last year, Rouhani vowed to open Iran to foreign trade and investment while facing resistance from Iranian hardliners and renewed U.S. antipathy.

In 2015, he struck a deal with six global powers to restrict its disputed nuclear program in exchange for lifting financial and economic sanctions.

The lawyer, former diplomat and Islamic cleric expressed sympathy for peaceful protesters, who are concerned about living conditions amid high unemployment and 10-percent inflation.

Rouhani was born Hassan Feridon on Nov. 12, 1948, in Sorkheh, Iran. His family members were opponents of the Shah, which exposed him to political issues at an early age.

He studied religion as a youth and eventually adopted the surname Rouhani, which means “community of clerics.”

After enrolling at the University of Tehran in 1969, he graduated three years later with a law degree. He earned a master’s degree and Ph.D. from Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland in the 1990s.

As an undergraduate student, he traveled throughout Iran to express his opposition to Shaw and his support for the exiled cleric Ruhollah Khomeini.

Rouhani was forced out of the country in 1977, when he joined Khomeini in Paris and addressed students across Europe.

He returned to Iran after the 1979 Iranian Revolution to help Khomeini rebuild the government.

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END OF VOA REPORT AND TWEETS

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BBG Watch

 

Voice of America to Iranians: Government Wants You to Behave

 
January 2, 2018

BBG Watch Commentary

Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani as shown in a Voice of America VOA English News video report, “Rouhani Rejects Trump’s Support for Iranian Protesters” posted by VOA on January 1, 2018.

We repost two recent Voice of America news reports: a VOA News video report with a transcript, and an earlier online report, to stimulate a discussion among Iranians and Americans, including U.S. government executive branch officials and members of Congress, on the role of the U.S. taxpayer-funded VOA ($224 million in FY 2017) which is managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency. The BBG has a total budget, including VOA, of $740 million (FY 2017).

Two recent U.S. media opinion articles on how the United States should respond to the anti-regime demonstrations in Iran make no mention of the Voice of America, or the Broadcasting Board of Governors which is also responsible for Radio Farda broadcasts to Iran under Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

“Iran’s Theocracy Is on the Brink” | WSJ

“The protesters in Iran need real help from Washington” | WP

Voice of America director Amanda Bennett, an Obama administration holdover appointee, has expressed her satisfaction in a Facebook post in how VOA has been covering the anti-regime demonstrations in Iran even though for the first days of the protests VOA English News did not have the Iran story on its homepage (BBC and DW did), VOA Persian Service was late in starting to post videos from the protests, and both VOA English and VOA Persian were more than two hours late reporting on the White House statement on Iran Sunday night. Her boss, BBG CEO John Lansing, another Obama administration holdover appointee, has also expressed pride in how the agency is engaging in unbiased journalism and accused critics of not being good journalists.

“Considering that this all happened on a major holiday when we were working with a skeleton staff, I think we’re doing pretty good,” Amanda Bennett wrote in her Facebook post, but Twitter users left numerous highly critical comments under a Voice of America tweet for an earlier VOA English News report “Iranian Official Blames ‘Foreign Agents’ for Protester Deaths.”

“Replying to @VOANews: I remember when the voice of America opposed tyrannical regimes instead of spreading their talking points. You are a disgrace,” was a typical comment. Another comment was: “Change your name to ‘Voice of Rouhani’ and get your funding from the Ayatollahs!”

There was also this comment under the VOA tweet: “Replying to @VOANews: Well, at least you’re ensuring the murderous regime of killers get their side told #whatsideareyouon”

In an earlier incident last year, there have been also highly critical comments from Chinese social media users who have accused the Voice of America of caving in to pressure from the Chinese government after VOA’s senior leadership had ordered shortening of a live interview with Chinese whistleblower Guo Wengui. The agency leadership categorically denied that pressure from Beijing played any role in their earlier decision on the China corruption interview and is trying to fire three VOA Mandarin Service journalists who had objected to the shortening of the VOA broadcast. The management is accusing these VOA Mandarin broadcasters of not practicing good journalism. The affected employees are contesting these accusations.
 

END OF BBG WATCH COMMENTARY

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VOICE OF AMERICA

 

Rouhani Rejects Trump’s Support for Iranian Protesters

 
 

 
MIDDLE EAST

January 01, 2018 5:05 AM

Zlatica Hoke

[VOA INTRO:] Iranian President Hassan Rouhani says U.S. President Donald Trump has no right to express sympathy for the Iranian people after referring to them as terrorists. Trump has praised protesters in Iran for rallying against the government’s economic policy. VOA’s Zlatica Hoke reports.

[TRANSCRIPT OF VOA NEWS VIDEO]

Anti-government protests in Iran have continued for a fourth consecutive day Sunday in several parts of the country.

The protest began in the north-east as an outcry against economic hardship and rising prices, but as they spread some rallies also called for an end to the clerical regime.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Sunday said that people had the right to protest and criticize the government, but the speech at a bait meeting he also said social unrest and destruction of public property will not be tolerated.

[IRAN’S PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI SPEAKING THROUGH AN INTERPRETER IN VOA VIDEO:]

“The government will definitely not tolerate those groups who are after the destruction of public properties, or disrupting the public order, or sparking riots in the society. Our people will not tolerate it either.”

The protests have been the biggest show of discontent in Iran since the 2009 rallies following the disputed presidential election. The government has imposed what it calls temporary restrictions on the instant messaging applications Telegram and Instagram used by the protesters.

Iran’s Interior Minister said security forces have identified protesters with links to Iran’s enemies and that they will be prosecuted in due course.

[IRAN’S INTERIOR MINISTER ABDOLREZA RAHMANI FAZLI SPEAKING THROUGH AN INTERPRETER IN VOA VIDEO:]

“We also have misuse of cyberspace and promote violence [sic], train [sic] systematic riots [sic], taught weapons and explosives crafting [sic], stimulated [sic] protesters to fight the police, and encourage the burning of houses and stores. These individuals are surely not part of the Iranian people.”

Iranians living in exile also demonstrated in support of their compatriots. U.S. President Donald Trump has praised the protesters, saying in one tweet that people of Iran finally see that their money is being stolen and squandered on terrorism.

President Rouhani said that Trump had no right to express sympathy for the Iranians.

[IRAN’S PRESIDENT HASSAN ROUHANI SPEAKING THROUGH AN INTERPRETER IN VOA VIDEO:]

“This guy in America who wants to sympathize with our people today has forgotten he has called the Iranian people terrorists a few months ago.”

Trump has been a harsh critic of a deal Iran signed with six nations, including the United States, to halt its nuclear program.

Zlatica Hoke, VOA News, Washington.

END OF VOA REPORT

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VOICE OF AMERICA

 

[Text Only as captured at 10:48 AM ET, Sunday, December 31, 2017. Later, VOA News made changes in the report.]

Iranian Official Blames ‘Foreign Agents’ for Protester Deaths

 
December 31, 2017 7:53 AM

VOA News

An Iranian official is blaming “foreign agents” for the shooting deaths of two protesters during widespread anti-government demonstrations Saturday.

“No shots were fired by the police and security forces,” Habibollah Khojastehpour, a deputy governor of the province where the protesters were killed. “We have found evidence of enemies of the revolution, Takfiri groups and foreign agents in this clash,” he said in an interview on state television Sunday.

The shootings happened in the western town of Dorud on the third day of protests. VOA’s Persian service identified the victims as Hamzeh Lashni and Hossein Reshno after a reporter spoke to the victims’ families.

Video posted to social media purported to show the two victims following the shootings. Other online video showed thousands of people protesting in several cities throughout Iran — including some attacking government buildings and violently confronting police.

There were reports that mobile devices were unable to access the internet for a period of time Saturday, though coverage was restored later in the day. But Iranian media reported on Sunday that access to some photo and message sharing apps was again restricted.

Protesters will ‘pay the price’

Earlier Sunday, Iran’s interior minister warned that those who “disrupt the order and break the law must be responsible for their behavior and pay the price.” Abdolrahman Rahmani Fazli, in a statement on state television, said “fear and terror will definitely be confronted.”

The uprisings — the biggest and most sustained since the 2009 presidential election protests — were sparked by high food prices and the country’s high unemployment rate. As many as 72 people died in the 2009 unrest after the regime cracked down demonstrators challenging the reelection of then-President Mahmud Ahmadinejad.

The latest demonstrations were seen as a cry against President Hassan Rouhani, who won re-election in May with promises to revive the economy.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal is seen as Rouhani’s major achievement. The deal, made with the United States and five other world powers, curbed Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for relief from international sanctions. But economic growth has not followed, and people are struggling to cope with the high cost of living.

Iran’s unemployment rate is 12.4 percent, its economy stagnant and inflation rampant

Little information about the protests is available, however, because state-run and semi-official news media have not widely reported on the demonstrations.

As a counter to the violence, separate state-sponsored rallies took place around the country to mark the end of the unrest that shook the country in 2009. State television reported pro-government rallies were held in about 1,200 cities and towns.

Cautions on social media use

Iran’s telecommunications minister Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi sent a public message to the CEO of the messaging service Telegram, telling him, “A Telegram channel is encouraging hateful conduct: use of Molotov cocktails, armed uprising, and social unrest.” Telegram responded saying it had suspended the account.

Telegram CEO Pavel Durov also tweeted a public message, explaining why the account was suspended.

“A Telegram channel [amadnews] started to instruct their subscribers to use Molotov cocktail against police and got suspended due to our ‘no calls for violence’ rule. Be careful,” Durov said. “There are lines one shouldn’t cross.”

A prominent cleric, Ayatollah Mohsen Araki, told thousands of pro-government demonstrators in Tehran that “the enemy” wanted to use social media and economic issues to “foment a new sedition.”

State television broadcast images of the protests Saturday, something it rarely does, including acknowledging that some of the demonstrators were chanting the name of Iran’s last shah, who fled the country during the Islamic Revolution in 1979.

Reaction

U.S. President Donald Trump denounced the Iranian government Saturday, tweeting excerpts from his September 19 speech to the U.N. General Assembly. He charged Rouhani’s government, and those before it, have long oppressed the Iranian people.

In a statement Friday, the U.S. State Department said, “Iran’s leaders have turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state, whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed and chaos.”

The State Department urged “all nations to publicly support the Iranian people and their demands for basic rights and an end to corruption.”

RFE/RL contributed to this report.

END OF VOA REPORT

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