BBG Watch Commentary
BBG Watch commented early on Monday that U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) confirmed its longstanding reputation for being what Iranian and American critics often refer to as “The Voice of the Mullahs” or “VOM,” by posting on on Sunday, January 7, a Soviet Pravda-like headline for its top news on homepages of VOA English News full and mobile websites. The VOA headline, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard: People, Security Forces ‘Have Broken the Chain’ of Unrest,” could only be described as giving joy to the Iranian mullahs and discouragement to Iranian protesters.
But when it comes to presenting and amplifying propaganda of the Iranian regime, repeating its lies prominently without much challenge, if any, and depriving anti-regime Iranian demonstrators of hope, Russia’s RT is not too far behind. But perhaps not even Putin’s propaganda channel is as eager to make sure that every Iranian regime statement designed to mislead and demoralize the opposition is as strongly presented as the Voice of America has done it in recent days, and for many years with regard to Iran.
For example, RT also reported yesterday on Iran’s Revolutionary Guard’s statement, but not even RT gave it the same prominence it received from VOA. More objective and more reputable news organizations, including BBC and Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) did not show the regime’s propaganda statement on their homepages and did not report on it at any length. Both VOA and RT did, but unlike RT, the Voice of America chose to display its headline as the top news item on its English-language desktop and mobile sites.
The Voice of America reported:
VOA: The group said in a statement, “The new epic of the proud, conscious, pious, and revolutionary Iranian people, along with the distinguished presence of tens of thousands of loyal Basij volunteer forces in calming the riots and the sincere endeavors of the brethren of the Law Enforcement Force and the Intelligence Ministry have broken the chain woven by America, Britain, the Zionist regime [Israel], the Saudi royal family, the Hypocrites [the banned Mojahedin-e-Karl Organization] and monarchists and eliminated the witchery of a new sedition.”
READ MORE FROM VOA NEWS: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard: People, Security Forces ‘Have Broken the Chain’ of Unrest, VOA News, January 7, 2018.
RT: “Iran’s revolutionary people along with tens of thousands of Basij forces, police and the Intelligence Ministry have broken down the chain [of unrest] created… by the United States, Britain, the Zionist regime [Israel], Saudi Arabia, the hypocrites [Mujahideen] and monarchists,” a statement from the group’s Sepahnews website said on Sunday.
READ MORE FROM RT: Iran’s Revolutionary Guard declares victory over unrest ’caused by foreign enemies’, RT, January 7, 2018.
As one can see, the Voice of America was somewhat more thorough than RT in presenting the Iranian regime’s propaganda statement. VOA also quoted an anti-U.S. tweet from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif:
VOA: After the meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, “The UNSC rebuffed the U.S.’snaked attempt to hijack its mandate … Another FP [foreign policy] blunder for the Trump administration.”
While the VOA report quoted U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley who called the protests “a powerful exhibition of brave people who have become so fed up with their oppressive government that they are willing to risk their lives in protests.” RT quoted an even slightly stronger statement from President Trump:
RT: Donald Trump tweeted that “The people of Iran are finally acting against the brutal and corrupt Iranian regime” and “the US is watching!”
RT’s headline, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard declares victory over unrest ’caused by foreign enemies’,” was somewhat less propagandistic than VOA’s headline, and it did not appear Sunday at the top of RT’s homepage, while VOA’s “Voice of the Mullahs” Pravda-like headline, “Iran’s Revolutionary Guard: People, Security Forces ‘Have Broken the Chain’ of Unrest,” stared at online viewers from the top of the VOA website.
No wonder that an Iranian tweeted:
We, the [P]ersian language audience, can’t distinguish between @VOAIran , @RadioFarda_ , @bbcpersian and IRIB [regime media] on political orientation, all PRO IR[anian]-Gov.
The only minor difference is: the last one forces female staff wear veils and ties are forbidden for male staff, and that’s it!
We, the persian language audience, can't distinguish between @VOAIran , @RadioFarda_ , @bbcpersian and IRIB on political orientation, all PRO IR-Gov.
The only minor difference is: the last one forces female staff wear veils and ties are forbidden for male staff, and that's it!
— فیلسوف معاصر (@mtrkeh) January 8, 2018
We can’t comment on the BBC Persian Service coverage of the Iran protests because we did not follow it in Farsi, other than observing that BBC was much faster than VOA in providing coverage of the crisis and appears to have a much larger audience. While some BBC English coverage can be criticized, it is nowhere as biased as VOA English coverage. VOA English and VOA Persian coverage had improved slightly as a result of relentless outside criticism, but declined again in quality over the weekend. It is nowhere near in terms of comprehensiveness and balance that such crisis coverage should be and is expected from the Voice of America. Iranians in Iran and Iranian Americans are furious by VOA’s extreme concern for presenting propaganda statements and lies of the Iranian regime without countering them and even without sufficient balance.
Based on what we have seen yesterday and in previous days, not even Russia’s RT is showing as much deference to the Iranian Mullahs and lack of empathy for the anti-regime Iranian demonstrators as the Voice of America English Newsroom.
We have to conclude that VOA is now a stronger “Voice of the Mullahs” than even President Putin’s propaganda channel, but we welcome more discussion and more opinions. You may also try to contact VOA Director Amanda Bennett and BBG CEO John F. Lansing, Obama administration holdover officials who have been criticized for poor leadership and poor management.
SEE: Voice of America Posts Iranian Mullahs’ Victory Statement with A Pravda-like Top VOA Headline, BBG Watch, January 8, 2018.
Featured Image: 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.
END OF BBG WATCH COMMENTARY
Dear Americans, The U.S. taxpayer-founded @VOANews & @RFERL never took the right stance on #IranProtests as well as they have done in favor of Mullahs. It's shameful. #ReformBBG @BBGWatch @BBGgov @realDonaldTrump @VP @StateDept @statedeptspox @SenTomCotton @KenTimmerman
— KavehTaheri (@TaheriKaveh) January 6, 2018
Let's see: "Our" @VOAnews leads with Iranian dictator, Iranian state tv, Iranian "president", and puts @POTUS statement on Iran in graph 16? #Pathetic! @BBGWatch @insideVOA @SenTomCotton https://t.co/u4hyDIMglT
— KenTimmerman (@KenTimmerman) January 2, 2018
4/ #IranProtests coordinator: 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. https://t.co/H9ir9OgoWv
— KenTimmerman (@KenTimmerman) January 4, 2018
VOICE OF AMERICA
[As seen at 11:55 PM ET, January 7, 2018.]
January 07, 2018 6:26 AM
Iranian worshippers chant slogans during a rally against anti-government protestors after the Friday prayer ceremony in Tehran, Jan. 5, 2018.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) said in a statement Sunday that the Iranian people and the country’s security forces played a role in ending the recent wave of unrest that the IRGC says was fomented by foreign enemies.
The group said in a statement, “The new epic of the proud, conscious, pious, and revolutionary Iranian people, along with the distinguished presence of tens of thousands of loyal Basij volunteer forces in calming the riots and the sincere endeavors of the brethren of the Law Enforcement Force and the Intelligence Ministry have broken the chain woven by America, Britain, the Zionist regime [Israel], the Saudi royal family, the Hypocrites [the banned Mojahedin-e-Karl Organization] and monarchists and eliminated the witchery of a new sedition.”
Iran’s parliament holds a special session Sunday to discuss the anti-government protests that began December 28 and continued into the following week.
In this photo taken by an individual not employed by the Associated Press and obtained by the AP outside of Iran, people are affected by tear gas fired by anti-riot police to disperse demonstrators in a protest over the country’s weak economy, in Tehran, Iran, Dec. 30, 2017.
Iran’s ISNA news agency reported that Iran’s interior minister, head of intelligence and security council chief are all expected to attend. On the agenda are discussions of the root cause of the protests, as well as legal help for protesters jailed during the demonstrations.
The session was called by a group of reformist lawmakers, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In a letter, those lawmakers called for legal assistance for the detained and condemned any outside “interference” in the protests, calling out the United States in particular.
U.S. President Donald Trump is set to soon decide whether to continue waiving sanctions on Iran that were suspended under the 2015 international deal on Iran’s nuclear program. The waiver must be renewed every 120 days, according to U.S. law. Trump could decide not to renew, putting U.S. trade sanctions back into effect.
In Europe, supporters of the anti-government protesters in Iran have been gathering to show their support in The Hague, Berlin, Hamburg, Stockholm, London and Paris.
At least 22 people have died in the protests and more than 1,000 have been arrested. Hard-line cleric Ahmad Khatami told worshipers in a sermon Friday that those arrested should be treated as enemies of Islam, particularly those who have burned the flag. “There should be no mercy for them,” he said.
Government official Mansour Gholami has told reporters that about a quarter of those arrested have been released, but he did not provide exact numbers.
The United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting Friday at the urging of the United States.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley called the protests “a powerful exhibition of brave people who have become so fed up with their oppressive government that they are willing to risk their lives in protests.” She also addressed the Iranian government, saying, “the U.S. is watching what you do.”
In response, the Iranian ambassador, Gholamali Khoshroo, said it is a “discredit” to the Security Council to hold such a meeting on Iran in the face of the conflicts taking place in Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East. He, along with a number of Security Council members, said the United States is meddling in Iran’s domestic affairs.
Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations Gholamali Khoshroo, front, speaks during a Security Council meeting on the situation in Iran, Jan. 5, 2018, at United Nations headquarters in New York.
After the meeting, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted, “The UNSC rebuffed the U.S.’snaked attempt to hijack its mandate … Another FP [foreign policy] blunder for the Trump administration.”
Still, U.S. intelligence officials warn Tehran is at a crossroads, noting the protests are the biggest outpouring of public discontent since Iranians took to the streets in 2009 following a disputed presidential election.
“The protests are symptomatic of long-standing grievances that have been left to fester,” an intelligence official told VOA on condition of anonymity. “Will it address the legitimate concerns of its people or suppress the voices of its own populace?”
“What is clear is that these concerns are not going away,” the official said.
Critics of Iranian President Nassan [sic — should be Hassan] Rouhani say he has abandoned the poor, pointing to rising prices for key commodities like fuel, bread and eggs.
[END OF VOICE OF AMERICA REPORT]