Persian News Network (PNN), VOA's Persian-language programming to Iran, invited TV viewers and website visitors last week to share views about Iran's leaders. Nearly 500 people responded, with all but a handful saying they would like a change in the current regime. The comments are posted at http://www.voanews.com/persian/shoecomments.cfm .
"Our represented officials are not elected in free elections, and their votes do not determine the outcome of the government's actions," one person wrote. "Learn a lesson from history. Your dictatorial rule will soon crumble. Soften the impression about your crimes by respecting freedom of expression and conducting free elections," said another. And this: "My dear country has been occupied by you all; we would like to be free, so leave our country. We can not bear you more than this; we will kick you out in the near future."
"We provided an open and anonymous forum for Iranians to express their true feelings about their leaders," said Alex Belida, PNN's acting director. "With Iran's presidential elections looming next June, we thought it would be informative to see what the Iranian people think of their own leaders."
Iran has been an Islamic republic since 1979 when the monarchy was overthrown, replaced by conservative clerical forces who established a theocracy. Ultimate political authority is vested in Supreme Leader Khamenei, who is accountable only to the Assembly of Experts. President Ahmadinejad was inaugurated in 2005 after conservatives reestablished control over Iran's elected government institutions.
VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four adult Iranians tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. PNN broadcasts seven hours a day, repeated for a full 24 hours.
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.
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