- The Washington Times - Monday, April 19, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Your allegation that Voice of America’s Persian News Network (VOA PNN) “is becoming the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran” is simply not supported by the facts (“Voice of the mullahs,” Comment & Analysis, Wednesday).

You cite two recent “cases in point,” describing broadcasts that, in your view, “gave preferred treatment to pro-regime messages.” There is no preferred treatment of any messages in VOA PNN programs. Allowing a wide range of voices and opinions underscores VOA’s commitment and adherence to a congressionally approved charter that requires programming to be accurate, objective and comprehensive.

The two guests you selectively cited represent only a small part of what PNN offered its audience that particular week, and each has appeared on or written articles for a wide variety of media.

Hooshang Amir-Ahmadi is a prominent professor at Rutgers University who also has appeared on CNN, Fox, BBC, ABC and PBS. He recently returned to the United States from a trip to Iran, where he met with influential contacts, including a member of the Guardian Council. On March 29, the same day the professor appeared on our broadcast, we also interviewed George Lopez, a senior fellow at the U.S. Institute of Peace, who testified in December before a House subcommittee on the effectiveness of sanctions against Iran.

Trita Parsi, the head of a leading Iranian-American group, has written articles for the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, the American Conservative and other publications. On April 1, the same day he appeared on our air, we also interviewed Taghi Rahmani, an opposition journalist. VOA did not “ban” callers during the Parsi segment, as you claim. Three points of view were offered, and the host took questions about the segment during the last 30 minutes of the broadcast.

The representation of all voices is a critical component of PNN’s programming, which is driven by the news and events of the day. This approach is succeeding - PNN programming draws some of the biggest audiences of U.S. international broadcasting and is seen weekly by almost 30 percent of Iranian television viewers.

It is important to note that each day, VOA receives compelling calls, e-mails and letters from inside Iran or from members of the Iranian diaspora. They thank PNN for providing information about the world and events in Iran that are not covered by their local news media. PNN brought the street demonstrations in Iran into homes throughout the country as they were happening and provided Iranian citizen-journalists and cell-phone videographers with an outlet for airing events they witnessed firsthand but that were not publicized by Iranian television.

In order to keep its people from seeing PNN content, the Iranian government attempts to block our Web sites and jam our broadcasts. And so we ask, would the government of Iran waste time and money jamming VOA’s PNN if it didn’t find the content objectionable?

DANFORTH W. AUSTIN

Director, Voice of America

Washington


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