BBG Watch Commentary
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.
Iranians demonstrating at home and abroad against the Mullahs have accused the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda of frequently repeating at length Iranian regime’s propaganda lies without sufficient challenge or strong and equally frequent opposing points of view from those who favor regime change, although there has been some minor improvements recently in response to relentless outside criticism of both media outlets.
Critics have called on the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress urging them to carry out immediate changes within the senior leadership of the Voice of America, its dysfunctional parent agency ($740 million FY 2017), the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and at RFE/RL’s Radio Farda.
A tweet from a former Iranian political prisoner said: “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.”
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
Commenting on earlier Voice of America reports on Iran protests, Eurasia expert, former Radio Liberty director and former presidentially-appointed Broadcasting Board of Governors board member, S. Enders Wimbush, commented, “This is really awful.”
S. ENDERS WIMBUSH: “Since when does the Voice of America provide a megaphone for authoritarians to tell their people to behave? That’s what [these VOA] reports amount to.
Where are the statements of support, not just from Trump but from the many experts in this country and Europe who understand that the Iranian people ultimately will take their future in their hands?
I cannot imagine a report like this one being broadcast during the days of Solidarity [trade union movement which opposed the communist regime in 1980s Poland].”
ALSO SEE: Devastating criticism of Radio Farda, VOA, and BBG from former official, BBG Watch, June 23, 2017.
ALSO SEE: Former BBG Member S. Enders Wimbush Testimony on Options for Reforming U.S. Overseas Broadcasting, BBG Watch, November 17, 2015.
ALSO SEE: Reassessing U.S. International Broadcasting, S. Enders Wimbush and Elizabeth Portale, Wilson Center, 2015.
It is also worth noting as a further sign of chaotic and ineffective or counter effective management at the Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors: the VOA report with its Pravda-like VOA headline in favor of the Mullahs’ regime in Iran remained on its website as Voice of America’s top news at 11 PM ET Sunday, even though it was first posted by VOA at 6:26 AM ET. Someone within VOA must have really wanted the Mullahs’ message to be seen around the world on VOA websites as a major and honest news. Shameful.
ALSO SEE: Timmerman calls on NSC for change of Voice of America leadership, BBG Watch, January 7, 2018.
END OF BBG WATCH COMMENTARY
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]