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Social Media a Powerful Tool in Iran, VOA Broadcaster, Other Experts Say


Iranians remain "hungry for information"

Washington, D.C., July 8, 2009 – Social media played an important, information-sharing role in Iran's post-election turmoil, but satellite television remains crucial to giving people fair and balanced news, experts say.

Setareh Derakhshesh, a lead anchor at Voice of America's (VOA) Persian News Network, said Tuesday the VOA has embraced social media like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, but takes care to ensure that with this Internet usage, "the traditional values of journalism are not sacrificed to speed."

For instance, she said videos sent to VOA were vetted for accuracy and authenticity before they were aired, and journalists confirmed stories with sources. Derakhshesh spoke at "The Role of New Media in Iranian Elections," a panel organized by the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA).

Although e-mail, phone and video traffic to VOA has leveled off since late June, Derakhshesh said Iranians remain "hungry for information" from the rest of the world, and "are waiting to see what the United States is going to do."

She said reasons for the drop-off in communications from Iran include the Iranian government's move to block Internet, jam satellites and intimidate people in the country.

Robert Faris, research director of the Berkman Center of Internet and Society at Harvard University, said social media is a "powerful tool" both in allowing people to send and receive information and in organizing political movements.

Despite Iranians' use of social media, Sam Sadaei, a blogger for Huffington Post, said satellite television channels like the Voice of America (VOA) and the British Broadcasting Corp. (BBC), are the "only source where Iranian people can get fair and balanced news."

Andrew Lewman of The Tor Project, a non-profit that allows users to access websites without being tracked, said product use spiked in Iran during June as people sought to get information without fear of retaliation. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees the VOA, is among The Tor Project's funders.

VOA's PNN broadcasts eight hours a day of television programming on a 24-hour cycle. The broadcaster reaches about one-in-four adults in Iran on a weekly basis. For more information or to view and listen to the programs, go to www.VOANews.com/persian.

CIMA is a program of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 134 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.

For more information, call VOA Public Relations at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail askvoa@voanews.com.


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