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Response to Washington Times Editorial "Voice of the mullahs"

Response to Washington Times Editorial

On April 14, 2010, Voice of America Danforth W. Austin responded to a Washington Times editorial that attacked VOA's Persian News Network:

Your allegation that VOA's Persian News Network "is becoming the Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran" is simply not supported by the facts.

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 VOA 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 has also appeared on CNN, Fox, BBC, ABC, and PBS. He recently had returned to the U.S. from a trip to Iran, where he met with influential contacts, including a member of the Guardian Council. On March 29th, 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 1st, 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 allege. Three points of view were offered, and the host took questions about the segment during the last 30 minutes of the broadcast.

The airing of all voices is a critical component of PNN's programming, which is driven by the news and events of the day. As is the policy at any reputable journalistic entity, PNN does not guarantee regular coverage to any individual or group. This approach is succeeding-PNN programming draws some of the biggest audiences of U.S. international broadcasting and is seen weekly by almost 30% of Iranian television viewers.

It is important to note here 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. It provides Iranian citizen journalists and cell phone videographers with an outlet for airing events that they witness first-hand, but that are not publicized by Iranian television.

In order to keep its people from seeing PNN content, the Iranian government attempts to block our websites and jam our broadcasts. And so we ask: would the government of Iran waste time and money jamming VOA's Persian News Network if it didn't find the content objectionable? Obviously not.

Danforth W. Austin
VOA Director