Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – July 9, 2007 . . . Major stories this week included the debut of the second hour of News & Views, bringing Persian’s television programming to six hours daily; President Bush’s meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Kennebunkport, ME; the ongoing UK terror plot investigation; an exclusive interview with Scotland Yard’s most senior Iranian-British official; Secretary Rice labels Iran a “very dangerous state”; a report from VOA’s Urdu stringer in Islamabad on the ongoing siege at the Red Mosque; and two original cultural reports on the Library of Congress’ extensive “Iranian World” collection and the new “Shoot for the Moon” exhibit at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium.
News and Views celebrated its fourth anniversary on July 6 by expanding to two hours! News & Views now airs daily 6-8 pm Tehran time and features a new stand-up anchor position, a revamped “top headlines” intro with new animated graphics and music which runs at the top of each hour, plus expanded features. The new format allows for more in depth coverage of “Inside Iran” stories, live guest interviews, more international correspondents, sports and cultural features. The July 6 show featured a live report from our France stringer on Senator John McCain’s visit to Paris and meeting with the French Prime Minister, a report from the United Nations and exclusive interview with the UNICEF representative in Iran, Christian Salazar, on the dangers of HIV/AIDS in Iran, a rooftop congressional report on the crop of Senators running for the White House, an interview with Iranian human rights activist and attorney Mehrangiz Kar, and a report on Shakespeare in Central Park.
VOA Persian covered Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and President Bush’s meeting in Kennebunkport, Maine where the two discussed U.S.-Russian relations, nuclear arms reductions and international efforts to halt Iran’s nuclear program. The two recognized the need in sending a common message to Iran regarding its suspected nuclear program and President Bush said he has been counting on Russia's support in sending a clear and strong message to Iran. The leaders also pledged to reduce their stockpiles of long-range nuclear arms “to the lowest possible level.” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov issued a joint statement in Washington Tuesday. The statement said the two sides intended to carry out strategic offensive reductions to the "lowest possible level consistent with their national security requirements and alliance commitments." The Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) between Russia and the United States is set to expire in 2009. U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation envoy Robert Joseph told reporters that talks on a new arms accord are under way, but only at an early stage. VOA Persian also covered a State Department briefing with Robert Joseph, U.S. Special Envoy for Non-proliferation and Sergie Kislyak, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, about the cooperation plan on nuclear energy and non-proliferation. On Iran’s claim that its Bushehr power plant will be completed by Sept., Dep. Foreign Minister Kislyak said that this is not possible because there are a host of economic and technical issues that still need to be resolved.
VOA Persian reported Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice’s recent remarks in an interview discussing U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. “[Iran] is a very dangerous state with very dangerous policies and we need the help and support and intensify efforts of the international community to deal with Iran." Rice also said President Bush still supports "diplomatic solutions to the Iranian problem." But Rice declined to rule out an American military strike against Iran for its refusal to give up nuclear program. "The president's never going to take his options off the table and frankly no one should want the American president to take his options off the table,” Reacting to the remarks, VOA Persian political analyst Alireza Nourizadeh to News & Views the reason Rice referred to Iran as a “very dangerous state” was “Because of Iran's nuclear program as well as its negative interference in Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine and Afghanistan.” World Resources Company consultant Bahman Aghai Diba said the remarks did not represent much of a policy change for the Administration.
VOA Persian provided extensive coverage of the UK terror plot investigation. National security level in the U.S. remained on the same level early in the week, however, the status has been elevated to orange on domestic and international flights especially those between the U.S. and Britain, particularly in light of the Fourth of July holiday. Security measures on all public transportation have been stepped up. The U.S. is also comparing the list of British suspects against its own databanks. The London-based daily, The Sun, reported that last year British intelligence agencies warned the government that there may be an attack during transition of power from one government to another. Some reports claim that one of the detainees in British custody maybe an Iranian physician of Kurdish ethnicity.
Police in Australia detained an eighth suspect in the failed car bombing plots in London and Glasgow. Australian authorities, acting on information provided by British officials, apprehended the 27-year-old Indian national Brisbane airport late Monday as he tried to leave the country. Officials say the man is a doctor and had been working in northern England before being recruited by a hospital in Queensland. British authorities say the doctor moved to Brisbane last year, after working at the same hospital in Britain as another suspect now in British custody. Prime Minister John Howard identified the arrested man as an Indian national who was granted a temporary work visa after he was hired to work as a doctor at a hospital in eastern Australia last year, "The man has been taken into custody and questioning is underway.” Police also said two of the suspects in custody are Iraqi and Jordanian doctors.
In an exclusive, Roundtable with You interviewed Ali Dezai, the police commander in West London and the highest ranking minority in Scotland Yard. Mr. Dezai discussed the UK terrorist plot and also explained the motivation of terrorist actions noting “research has shown that suicide bombers have three characteristics in common: They are all interested in vengeance. Secondly, they want people to overreact to their outrage and take extreme measures. And lastly, they want people to embrace their ideology.” Mr. Dizaei argued against profiling saying that terrorists can come from any race, creed, and nationality “as the case with Timothy McVeigh proved in the Oklahoma bombing.” In response to callers and e-mailers asking Mr. Dizaei and the British police to expel radical Muslim critics, he said that “whether fortunately or unfortunately Britain is a democratic country and we prize freedom of expression like nothing else and we cannot deport these individuals no matter how unpalatable their pronouncements, but once they incite their followers to commit acts of violence we will take action.”
Police raided a student protest at the University of Art in Tehran. Student activist Ali Kioonesbati told News & Views that the “crackdown of students has reached an unprecedented brutal level.”
Reporters Without Borders (an independent international organization dedicated to press freedom) announced the detention of 3 Iranian journalists, brining the total to six. One has not been charged, another one was accused of spying and a third was charged with “upsetting public opinion and spreading separatist ideas.” Reza Moeni, a spokesperson for Reporters Without Borders told VOA Persian, “The Islamic Republic tries to take control of domestic media by cracking down on individual reporters”
VOA Persian covered the ongoing siege at the Red Mosque in Islamabad, Pakistan. VOA’s Urdu stringer in Pakistan, Ayaz Gul, was stationed nearby and provided real time reports, “The army has intensified its assault on the mosque during the past few hours, destroying the entire wall around the mosque, but is refraining from hitting the mosque itself for fear of the militants using the students and people there as human shield.” Up to 400 hundred people demonstrated on the streets of the Pakistani city of Quetta on Thursday in support of militants holed up in the radical mosque. Gul reported there were a few small-scale demonstrations in other cities, but not significant. The Musharraf government was under criticism fore the constitutional issue, in-action against extremists and a host of other issues, but the army’s measure against the mosque has not drawn any criticism anywhere in the country and no voice has been heard in support of the militants inside the mosque. He said if the government continues to allow Abdolrashid Ghazi to make his demands and announcements through the media, it might soon loose the support it has from the public.
VOA Persian reported on the violence in Pakistan where a bomb blast killed at least four Pakistani soldiers in a military convoy in the northwestern part of the country. The attack occurred on Friday as a convoy drove near the town of Dir. Initial reports said the attack was carried out by a suicide car bomber. However, a later report said the Pakistani military was investigating whether the deaths were caused by a roadside bomb. In Rawalpindi, shots were fired just after Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's plane took off from a military base. The plane was not hit, and General Musharraf landed safely in the city of Turbat, located in the southwestern portion of the country. The Army's top spokesman, Major General Waheed Arshad, denied that General Musharraf's plane was targeted. However, other Pakistani officials called the incident an unsuccessful attack on the president's plane.
News Talk discussed the recent visit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to Iran and the two countries political alliance. Economist Dr. Hadi Zamani suggested there was no economic basis for the relationship as “both countries are oil producing and exporting countries and each one has what the other one has,” adding, “Iran needs to establish relations with countries that can help it to release itself from its international isolation” and that Venezuala is not the best country for a relationship as it too is internationally isolated. Dr. Zamani criticized the regime’s decision to ration gas stating, “Gas rationing is not the solution to Iran’s economic problems. It will cause inflation, and more pressure on people.” Ali Afshari, National Endowment for Democracy and a VOA contributor, noted that the Venezuela and Iran do not share any ideological commonalities, only foreign policies based on anti-Americanism. “Iran is attempting to create a front against the U.S. by establishing close relations with other isolated, broken countries, such as Cuba and Venezuela.” Afshari suggested that Iran is trying to defeat the U.S. financially, hoping that America’s involvement in the Middle East will increase the defense budget to a point where the U.S. will no longer be able to afford to remain in the region.
Roundtable with You hosted Iranian student activist leader Manucher Mohammadi, who discussed the 8th anniversary of the Tehran University student uprisings which led to his arrest and that of his brother. He is currently a researcher at the National Endowment for Democracy. His brother Akbar, died in custody last year. Mohammadi discussed the student movement and its struggle for democracy and human rights in Iran. He also explained in detail how the first protests occurred and how Iranian security forces cracked down on the protestors. Mohammadi said the current Iranian regime has no legitimacy and that a referendum should be held so that the Iranian people can choose their own form of government. He also stated that he supports non-violent regime change in Iran.
News Talk hosted a discussion on environmental problems in Iran with Dr. Hamid Arabzadeh, a principal with HRA Environmental Consultants, inc., World Resources Co. consultant Bahman Aghai Diba and journalist Elahe Bograt. “On the shortage of drinking water in Iran, Dr. Arabzadeh said, “One of the major reasons of death in human beings is shortage of, or pollution of drinking water. The death rate is the most in children under 2 years old. Malaria and infectious diseases, which did not exist in Iran, is back and we might even see the epidemic of Cholera. The recent flood in Sistan and Baluchestan has added to problem.” Ms. Bograt added, Iran is primarily a dry country. But each year we are losing more of the forests and gaining more deserts, which results in extinction of some plant and animal species as well as decrease of annual rain. And then we have the industrial sewage and biological sewage entering in fresh water. Concerning Iran’s problem of air pollution, particularly in Tehran, Dr. Arabzadeh said “Cars create 60% of the air pollution. To clean the air we should have clean-air public transportation, control on the rate of population, use of new cars in the streets, and use of lead-free gas. Iran's problem is rooted in regime's politics.” Regarding the environmental impact of Iran’s nuclear program Dr. Arabzadeh noted, “Because nobody knows where Iran nuclear facilities are, and then they have lack of safety. And in case of military conflicts, their destruction would cause extended radioactive pollution in region. In western countries 70% to 80% of the nuclear budget goes to safety issues, but that is not the case in Iran.”
Roundtable with You hosted Dr. Siavash Abghari, the Director of the School of Business Administration at Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA and an organizer of the Solidarity conference of Iranian opposition groups recently held in Paris. Dr. Abghari discussed the significance of the conference and summed up the prevailing spirit noting, “Most of the 200 participants agreed that the Paris conference was historic occasion, because it marked the first time that well-known leaders from established opposition groups and from Iran’s diverse ethnic communities have declared their intention to work together against regime in Tehran, instead of fighting each other.” Dr. Abghari stated that the opposition groups’ purpose was to “supplant the theocracy and bring democracy to Iran” and that international sanctions against Iran would not be enough to bring about regime change. “We can achieve this with a grand plan of civil disobedience and economic action that will allow people to go out and do their own thing, while coordinating all these actions.”
VOA Persian was given rare and exclusive access to the Library of Congress’ “Iranian World” section of its Near East Collection. Ibrahim Pourhadi, who has worked at the Library for 38 years and is their Area Specialist for Iran, gave News & Views a guided tour. Amassed over 62 years, the LOC’s collection includes four thousand printed books, three hundred hand written books, several book covers and 250 calligraphies with Arabic writing. Most of the Iranian artifacts are from the 19th century. Along with Persian text, they have several texts written in Kurdish and Taji – Taji being Farsi written in the Russian alphabet. In addition to the historical artifacts, the Library of Congress also includes many of the Persian Blogs being written today.
Late Edition featured an original report from Chicago’s Adler Planetarium where “Shoot for the Moon” is on exhibition. The new permanent exhibit “highlights the exciting stories of space exploration and America's bold plans to return to the Moon.” The exhibit covers the history of our trip to the moon and raises awareness about plans to go back in 10 years. Shoot for the Moon includes several original pieces related to different missions to the moon such as astronaut Jim Lovell’s gloves, helmet, and space suit. A golden stone from moon is also on display. The center piece of the exhibit is the Gemini space capsule which took Jim Lovell to the moon and back. The report featured a Planetarium spokesperson who explained the requirements for becoming an astronaut.
On the eve of the 2007 Asian Football Confederation’s 2007 Asia Cup in which Iran’s national team is set to participate in Kuala Lumpur, Roundtable with You hosted sports journalists Manook Khodabakhshian and Iraj Adibzadeh to discuss the tournament. While football is an immensely popular sport in Iran Mr. Khodabakhshian suggested Iran’s youth are focused on other more pressing issues, “ I don’t think the Asian soccer tournament is important for the Iranian youth and in my opinion they really don’t care about soccer at this point, there are many problems and difficulties in their life, they suffer too much under the Ahmadinejad’s administration and there is no future for them in the Islamic Republic. They are not interested in soccer anymore; they are after freedom, democracy and pluralism in Iran.” Mr. Adibzadeh focused on the controversy surrounding Iran and FIFA (the international soccer governing board) stating, “As we know FIFA, world soccer's governing body, suspended Iran from all international competition couple of months ago and it was due to Iranian government interference in soccer matters. The FIFA Emergency Committee took this decision after determining that the Iran Football Federation was not adhering to the principles of the FIFA statutes regarding the independence of member associations, the independence of the decision-making process of the football governing body in each country, and the way in which changes in the leadership of associations are brought about.”
Late Edition hosted Partow Nouriala, a writer, poet and women’s rights activist to discuss an international campaign to end laws in Iran which discriminate against women. Ms. Nouriala stated "Iranian women's rights activists are initiating a wide campaign demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iranian law. The Campaign, “One Million Signatures Demanding Changes to Discriminatory Laws,” which aims to collect one million signatures to demand changes to discriminatory laws against women, is a follow-up effort to the peaceful protest of the same aim, which took place on June 12, 2006 in Haft-e Tir Square in Tehran… These demands are in no way contradictory to the foundations of Islam. A million signatures supporting changes to discriminatory laws, will demonstrate to decision makers and the public at large that a large segment of the Iranian population is in support of revising discriminatory laws against women and that these demands are not limited to a small segment of society. This campaign will also demonstrate to law makers that Iranian women are serious in their demands to change current laws."
Late Edition interviewed Hassan Zerehi, Founder and the Editor in chief of Sharhrvand, a weekly Farsi newspaper published in Toronto, who spoke on the importance of the publication, noting “Farsi speaking Canadians maintain their cultural heritage by supporting not only the various social, cultural and business associations in their respective communities, but also by keeping a strong and healthy bond with their Farsi speaking countries of origin. Members of this community rely on Shahrvand to keep up to date on what is happening locally and in their homeland… Shahrvand serves as an important link to the Farsi language community's sense of heritage, family and tradition. It provides a primary source of news and information to Farsi speaking immigrant families living in Canada."
History Channel programming included two segments from the series “Where Did it Come From?” featuring ancient Chinese agriculture and farming techniques. The documentary studies how the ancient Chinese invented advanced farming technology over a thousand years before the West would use anything like it. The second featured explored the origins of WMD (Weapons of Mass Destruction) traveling to ancient Greece where the techniques of modern warfare were invented over 2,000 years ago. Long range missiles, biological weapons and the use of fire as a terror tactic all had their origins in ancient Greece. In the third feature aired this week, the harrowing story of the Apollo 13 mission and its near catastrophe was averted. The mission, which could have had tragic consequences, was a resounding success. It was a test of the accumulated knowledge of all previous Apollo missions and in many ways was NASA's finest hour. Two biographical documentaries of Hollywood legends, “Cecile B. Demille: The Man Who Invented Hollywood” and “Grace Kelly: Hollywood Princess” also aired this week.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
History Channel programming opens VOA’s daily six-hour Persian-television block with news headlines followed by various History Channel programs, translated and narrated in Farsi, that illustrate the cultural fabric and political landscape of the United States. News and Views, which debuted in 2003, is a two hour-long program featuring correspondent reports, interviews and the top news stories from Washington and around the world. News and Views is followed by Roundtable with You, Late Edition and NewsTalk, all one-hour shows that together constitute a five-hour daily block of Persian-language television broadcast by satellite to Iran. Roundtable with You, which debuted on television in 1996, takes calls from viewers and features a wide variety of guests discussing issues ranging from popular culture to politics. Late Edition, a youth-oriented program which first aired in July 2006, looks at major world events and issues of interest to young people. NewsTalk, which went on the air in October 2006, opens with a brief recap of the day’s top headlines followed by a panel of experts discussing the day's top news stories. NewsTalk features in-depth discussions of the issues of greatest concern to Iranians and closes with a segment on worldwide media coverage of Iran.
VOA's Persian television shows complement VOA Persian's daily radio broadcasts and Radio Farda, a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week, youth-oriented radio program that is a joint project of VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. VOA's Persian language Internet site is at www.VOANews.com/persian.