When you silence dissent, you lose, Iranian scholar tells RFE/RL VP

BBG Watch Commentary

Dr. Majid Mohammadi, author of more than three dozen books on Iran, joins a growing number of award-wining journalists and scholars who find it impossible to work for the current senior management of Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Several others, most of them women journalists, have quit RFE/RL. In addition to Dr. Mohammadi, most prominent among them is 2016 UNESCO/Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize winner Khadija Ismayilova who announced that she had “left RFE/RL recently, when I felt it is difficult for me and my colleagues to make senior management (most of whom are in a crisis of career stagnation) to listen to its journalists.” “People do not leave good organizations,” Ismayilova wrote in another public Facebook post. “I resigned from this organization because they didn’t hesitate to fire the best journalists,” she added.

Dr. Mohammadi reaches similar conclusions in his two most recent commentaries. When you silence dissent, you lose.

ALSO SEE: Radio Farda: isn’t it time for a house cleaning? By Majid Mohammadi, BBG Watch, April 20, 2018.
 

OPINION/GUEST COMMENTARY

Criticism Leads to Termination

 
By Majid Mohammadi

As a freelance writer and analyst, I believe that working for a media outlet does not mean you must close your eyes on corruption, waste, and bias. This is exactly what I have been doing in the last 40 years. I have criticized institutions that I have worked for and paid a price. Most of time it happened under an authoritarian and totalitarian regime, i.e. the Islamic Republic of Iran. I did not expect to experience the same treatment in a democratic and open society, but Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and the Voice of America (VOA) proved me wrong. Four years ago VOA Persian Service put me on its black list just because I said on their news program that ISIS and Islamic Republic of Iran are ideologically similar: one is Shi’i Islamist and the other one is Sunni Islamist.

On March 31st 2018, three days after I criticized Persian speaking outlets’ (including Radio Farda) policies and biases toward Islamist regime in Tehran on Kahyah London (with very limited readership) I received this email from RFE/RL vice president:

Sire,
 
We came across an article you wrote in Kayhan London, in which you strongly criticize Radio Farda’s programs and editorial decisions.
 
Among other things, you write that Radio Farda is “mainly the voice of leftists and Islamists.” This would be an absurd claim coming from anyone.
 
Also, you are a paid contributor to Farda radio and TV programs—a fact that you inexplicably failed to mention to your readers.
 
We can only suppose that since you have such fundamental doubts about and disagreements with the editorial judgment of a media company you work for, you would not feel comfortable providing any additional “A Small Correction” radio programs or regular weekly appearances on our morning TV show. Therefore, in deference to your expressed feelings, we will remove these from our schedule as of March 31, 2018.
 
Your current freelance contract of per-piece payments is not terminated and remains in place because we might invite you as a guest to our programs to express your opinions about Iran, or as an op-ed writer per request.
 
I wish you all the best.
 
Nenad Pejic
Vice President and Editor-In-Chief
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

This was my reaction:

Mr. Pejic

1. The First Amendment is the reason that I love this beautiful country. Working for Radio Farda is not a good excuse to forget my rights. My rights are not for sale.

2. You are not the first and last to remove me from a media outlet. 15 (many of them Islamists and leftists inside and outside Iran) are behind you and many will be ahead of you. I am still writing and will continue writing.

3. Four years ago, VOA Persian put me and some others on their blacklist. Look where they are now. Almost dead. When you cancel different voices, you lose.

4. I have been writing and talking about despotism, intolerance, oppression, and fake news for forty years. Your decision to remove me from Radio Farda will have zero effect on my work.

5. Several times, I have told my audience that I ask for wages wherever I write or give an interview. You have not read all my pieces (thousands). Your translators have kept some information from you. Cheap shot.

6. Your email shows that you can feel other people’s feelings and then make decisions based on their unknown feelings. Feelings are not important for the work of an institution. I have the right to criticize anyone or any institutions. I am not your staff. I completely feel comfortable working for an institution and criticize it. It is immoral to put the responsibility of bad decisions on others’ shoulders.

7. Your decision to remove me from those programs is Radio Farda’s loss. I have been the only voice against leftists and Islamists in Radio Farda program.

8. If you want to have me on other programs my rates are now tripled (from April 1st).

9. I will continue criticizing Radio Farda and nobody can stop me.

10. My criticisms of BBC Persian have been harder and tougher, and they still work with me. You are showing how thin skin you are.

11. I have written another piece on the website (will be published soon on Kayhan London). Ask your translators to tell you about that. Do not miss it.

Best,

Majid Mohammadi

Officials in charge of BBG and RFERL should answer these questions:

1. Is it legitimate to remove programs just because the analyst or producer has criticized a radio program’s policies, decisions, and trends?

2. How did Mr. Pejic find out about my comfortability? Is being comfortable at work a part of the necessary conditions to work for an institution?

3. Is this a pattern that everyone who criticizes policies is removed?

4. Are people who work for RFERL all volunteers that I was supposed to work for free? Is it the norm that people are paid for their work?

5. How many of the staff members and usual guests are Islamists and leftist leaning and how many are the opposite?

6. Is it a loss for Radi Farda to remove someone who had published 40 books and thousands of articles and pieces on Iranian politics and society?

7. Is it wise to remove the only program that does fact checking on Iranian government for Radio Farda (my program)?

 
Majid Mohammadi is an Iran analyst who has published more than three dozen books on Iranian politics and society. For nine years he was a freelance contributor to Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Radio Farda programs for radio, television and digital platforms. RFE/RL is overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).
 
 

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