Feb. 8, 2007: Senator Tom Coburn (R,OK) today released a bombshell report, finally saying out loud whatmany of us have been whispering for years:Voice of America'sPersian Service TV broadcasts are actually harming U.S. nationalinterests by giving "a significant amount of airtime to guestsand content that undermine U.S. policy on Iran, often evensupporting the propaganda of the Islamic Republic of Iran."For more, including links to Sen. coburn's documents, gohere.
Coburn'sletter to President Bush cited theegregious coverage of the president's State of the Union speech wherea former Islamic Republic of Iran diplomat, Mansour Farhang, opinedunopposed that U.S. policy in Iraq has "no connection to reality,"and the VOA anchor, Setareh Derakhshesh, told Iranian vieweres that"America opposes the President."
Coburn also released afull translation of the State of the Unioncoverage, which he commissioned fromoutside sources after requesting repeatedly of Broadcasting Board ofGovernors chairman Ken Tomlinson to provide English-languagetranscripts of Persian broadcasts.
A report on VOA and Radio Farda coverageproducedby the Iran Steering Group, a bipartisancoalition in Congress, concluded that "neither station is a primarysource of news for Iranians." It pointed out that "Radio Fardafrequently uses Islamic Republic news sources - official or thoseaffiliated with the regime," even though Radio Farda was supposed tobe a "freedom radio" presenting Iranians with information they couldnot acquire inside Iran.
During the war in Lebanon this past summer, forexample, VOA Television repeatedly interviewed top Hezbollah leaders(who appeared regularly on Iranian State television) and broadcasttheir harangues on a U.S. government network into Iran.
Perhaps the most stunning comments, however,were made by Hoover Institution scholar Abbas Milani, who hasbeen called to testify recently as an "expert" on the pro-democracymovement in Iran by Rep. Tom Lantos, chairman of the House ForeignAffairs Committee.
In a segment devoted to Iranian human rightsabuses, Milani was asked this question:
VOA: Dr. Milani, how can a country that violates human rights be a defender of international human rights?
Without missing a beat, Milani responded: "I think that what you are saying is 100% correct, that is why the US is in a problematic position because of this. An America that has the Guantanamo Bay jail in it, an America in which minorities, blacks, have suffered from legal deprivations, without a doubt has international issues with regards to this. However, the reality is that with all these violations, America has other advantages. Throughout Iran's history, even though there were the likes of [the coup in] 1953, there are tens of other examples where AMerica has tried to establish democracy... But in total, we have to analyze the sum total of all of this, despite these shortcomings, and despite what I think is America's shameful record of violation of human rights laws, despite all that, I think America's interests lie in establishing democracy in the region. Ms. Rice spoke about this, I think."
VOA: Thank you very much, Professor Milani. Of course, the country I was referring to as the violator of human rights which cannot be a defender of international human rights was the Islamic Republic of Iran."
Kenneth R. Timmerman is Executive Director of the Foundation forDemocracy in Iran.