BBG Watch EXCLUSIVE Commentary

Reza Pahlavi, the older son of the late Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, warned in a video interview that U.S. taxpayer-funded media outlets broadcasting to Iran — Radio Farda operating within Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) with headquarters in Prague and the Voice of America (VOA) in Washington, both managed by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) federal agency — have been infiltrated by individuals who believe in reforming the clerical regime in Iran.

They help the regime to stay in power, Reza Pahlavi who has appeared previously in some VOA broadcasts said in a calm manner to a pointed question from an independent journalist whether VOA and Radio Farda are being effective. He also expressed his view that Radio Farda and VOA should be completely purged of such persons, noting that the Iranian people want to get rid of the theocratic regime and are no longer interested in reforming it.

“Many U.S. lawmakers we have talked to are fully aware of this challenge and they are thinking of carrying out serious changes in these outlets,” Reza Pahlavi said in the interview about VOA and Radio Farda.

There are journalists working for VOA Persian Service and Radio Farda who disagree with VOA’s senior management and the service management but have told us they are afraid they will face punishment if they voice their opinions publicly. Some have been contacting members of Congress and outside reporters and experts to voice their concerns about programming and management problems at the BBG, VOA and RFE/RL but don’t want their names to be used.

Reza Pahlavi was interviewed for Bayan Media Network by Bijan Farhoodi, a freelance journalist working in London who in 2013 retired from the Broadcasting Board of Governors after a long career with the Voice of America. As of February 16, 2018, the interview is showing over 50,000 views on YouTube.

رضا پهلوی: تنها راه چاره دست برداشتن آخوندها از حکومت است



Unofficial Translation

Bijan Farhoodi: Do you think that the U.S. government makes the optimum use of Farsi-speaking media outlets it has at its disposal (specifically, Radio Farda and Voice of America) to advance the cause of democracy in Iran?
Prince Reza: The main issue with these outlets you named is the infiltration of reformists in their ranks and they try to perpetuate the reformist discourse, which helps the regime stay in power.
There needs to be a complete purge of these reformists elements in these outlets because the Iranian people have called the legitimacy of the entire theocratic system into question and are no longer interested in reforming it.
The programming of these outlets also needs to be in keeping with what the Iranian public have called for, which is to get rid of this theocratic regime.
Bijan Farhoodi: A viewer by the name of Hitchens has this question: Have you thought of discussing with American officials on ways to identify those who may be sympathetic to the Islamic Republic in these two outlets?
Prince Reza: Many US lawmakers we have talked to are fully aware of this challenge and they are thinking of carrying out serious changes in these outlets.

The view that the Voice of America and Radio Farda are in bed with the Iranian regime and help it to stay in power appears to be widely shared among Iranians and American experts on Iran.

Commenting on one of VOA English News early reports on the Iranian Uprising devoted almost exclusively to highlighting the warnings issued to the demonstrators by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli, Eurasia analyst S. Enders Wimbush, former BBG Board member and former Director of Radio Liberty, observed:

S. ENDERS WIMBUSH: This is really awful. Since when does the Voice of America provide a megaphone for authoritarians to tell their people to behave? That’s what this report amounts 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 protests in Poland.

BBG and Voice of America officials led by BBG CEO John F. Lansing and VOA director Amanda Bennett, both Obama administration holdover appointees, reject such criticism as unfounded, as do managers working for them. The BBG put out a press release “Iranians turn to USIM networks for critical information during protests.”

Responding to criticism voiced by an Iranian American, a former VOA Persian Service broadcaster, at a recent panel in Washington, D.C., Matthew Baise, the Director of Digital Strategy for the Voice of America, gave a rather smug response, “I think what I would say to that is if what I’ve just showed you constitutes failure, I can’t wait to see what success looks like.”

Social media has been full of critical comments from Iranians about the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the Voice of America, and Radio Farda. Some have been using #ReformBBG hashtag.