Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – July 16, 2007 . . . Major stories include an exclusive interview with the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Tom Lantos (D-CA); the IAEA meetings in Tehran to discuss ways to solve the problem of Iran’s nuclear program; the continued political fallout over the stoning to death of a man in Iran; the abduction and imprisonment of a major Iranian labor leader and critic of the Islamic Republic; the arrest of ten student activists in Iran on the 18 Tir anniversary (July 9); the continued violence and unrest in Pakistan; and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s call for direct Israeli-Syrian talks.
In an exclusive interview with Persian News Network’s A Roundtable with You, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Tom Lantos (D-CA) stressed repeatedly that he wished for better relations with Iran, a dialogue between the American government and Iranian government, Iran’s right to peaceful, civilian nuclear power and his desire to travel soon to Iran. “If the Iranian government issued me a Visa, I would be on the next plane to Iran,” he said. Lantos stated that “Iran is the only government on the planet” which will not allow responsible members of the U.S. government, including members of Congress, to meet with their Iranian counterparts. He said this would be an important first step to resuming relations. “I look forward to the day when the U.S. and Iran will have positive and normal relations.” Lantos cited the historical relationship between France and Germany, their three bloody wars in the 19th & 20th centuries and historic enmity versus their current cooperation and alliance through the EU as a model for how former rivals can grow to become friends. Lantos also reiterated Iran’s right to peace, civilian nuclear power and explained his proposed legislation for an international nuclear fuel bank; “We have to make civilian nuclear energy available to Iran.” Regarding a preliminary agreement between Turkey and Iran to carry natural gas from Iran and Turkmenistan to Europe, Lantos threatened sanctions against Turkey should such a deal go through. Lantos also expressed great admiration for the Iranian people. “I have the highest regard for the Persian culture and the Iranian people.”
Persian News Network reported on the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) team talks in Tehran designed to resolved disputes over Iran's nuclear program. Deputy Director of the IAEA Olli Heinonen and other agency officials met with an Iranian team led by Javad Vaidi, deputy to Iran's chief nuclear negotiator, Ali Larijani. The officials met to discuss Iran's plan for answering questions about its nuclear activities. On Tuesday, Ali Akbar Velayati, advisor to Ayatollah Khamenei, supreme leader of the revolution, said all parts of centrifuges are made in Iran and not even military action against Iran will stop it from installing more cascades. On Friday News & Views reported Iran’s agreement to allow inspectors to visit its Arak nuclear plant following talks on how to resolve outstanding questions about Tehran's disputed nuclear program.
Persian News Network reported on the stoning to death of a man in Iran last week convicted of adultery. The death was announced officially on Tuesday by Iran’s Judiciary Ministry. This is the first time in years that the country has confirmed such an execution. Legal expert Nemat Ahmadi told News & Views that the judge who ordered the stoning broke the law because he countermanded an order from the head of the Supreme Judiciary who forbade the practice. Under Iran's Islamic law, adultery is still theoretically punishable by stoning although in late 2002, judiciary head Ayatollah Mahmoud Hashemi Shahrudi had issued a directive suspending the practice. In June, the Fars news agency reported that the judiciary had halted the stoning of a man and a woman in Qazvin province, believed to be the same man who has now been executed.
In an exclusive interview responding to the stoning, Forde Anderson, spokesman of the Norwegian foreign ministry told Persian News Network, “I have to express shock that the stoning was carried out and we condemn the execution in the strongest possible term. Stoning is a completely inhuman and barbaric means of punishment. We are deeply disturbed by that...We have no particular interest in the matter other than voicing our protest against stoning and death penalty in general. However we raised the issue of the stoning couple of weeks ago with the Iranian government and was promised that the sentence was not going to be carrying out. In that instance we feel particularly displeased with the Iranian actually carrying this sentence.”
Persian News Network reported on the abduction by unidentified men on Tuesday of Iranian labor leader Mansour Osanlou. He was reportedly beaten up and taken to an unknown location. As the director of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company, Mr Osanlou was first detained in December 2005 for organizing a walk-out by bus drivers. The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) has written to Iran's president to protest. In June, Osanlou, attended international trade union conferences in London and Brussels, where he described the difficulties of workers in Iran. He also recalled the Iranian authorities' efforts to prevent the establishment of labor organizations, and sought international labor and human rights organizations intervention to help Iranian workers. Ebrahim Madadi, vice president of the Union of Workers of the Tehran and Suburbs Bus Company told News & Views that the action was unlawful, “No Iranian authority has taken responsibility for the attack on Mr. Osanlou. There was no arrest order issued for Mansour Osanlou by any of judiciary departments.”
Persian News Network observed the 18 Tir anniversary, or student uprisings of July 9, 1999, by airing a number of interviews and special retrospectives. In response to the closing of a reformist newspaper, students at the University of Tehran gathered to protest, which was greeted by a harsh crackdown in the dormitories, resulting in the death of a student on July 9, 1999. This precipitated six days of massive demonstrations across Tehran. Mr. Akbar Atri, a former student activist explained to News & Views why Iranian universities are so important to the democracy movement in Iran, “The universities have kept their character as an independent unit throughout history, and they have also kept their struggle for freedom and fight against tyranny.”
Persian News Network reported on the arrest of more than 10 student activists in Tehran on Monday. The spokesman of Judiciary said the students were arrested for unauthorized demonstration. The official did not make any comments about the location of the arrested students. News & Views spoke with student activist Farid Hashemi in Tehran and Abdolfattah Soltani who told us “until the officials of the Judiciary system tell us the location of the captives, and the organization in charge of the arrests, it’s not possible to defend the students. There’s no information about their overall situation. The officials need to allow the captives to visit their families, and lawyers.”
Persian News Network covered the storming of the Red Mosque in Pakistan with live reports from Urdu stringer Ayaz Gul. Abdul Rashid Ghazi, the public face of the pro-Taliban mosque that challenged the government's writ in Islamabad, had vowed to die rather than give himself up. Negotiations for their surrender had broken down before the military launched its assault. State Department spokesman Tom Casey said, "The government of Pakistan has proceeded in a responsible way. All governments have a responsibility to preserve order." A military spokesman, Major General Waheed Arshad, said troops now control most of the complex.
Persian News Network reported on Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s call for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to resume peace talks that collapsed seven years ago. In an interview with the Arab TV network Al Arabiya, Mr. Olmert said he is ready to sit down and talk about peace, not war. "I am willing to sit with him if he is willing to sit with me. We'll talk about peace." In an interview with News & Views, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Mark Regev said Israel is ready for talks and Syria can either “join us or shut up.’” A member of Syrian Parliament Mohammed Habash said that the talks should be part of the road map and the US should be part of any talks between the two countries.
Persian News Network reported on the ongoing debate in the Senate over the administration’s policy in Iraq. Several Democrats offered amendments to the defense appropriations bill to curtail the policy. Defense Secretary Robert Gates canceled a four-country tour of Latin America planned for this week to help prepare a report to Congress on progress made by the Iraqi government. The administration is required to present an interim report to Congress by July 15th, and to present another report on progress in Iraq in September. Iraqi leaders warned on Monday that an early U.S. troop withdrawal could tip Iraq into all-out civil war after the New York Times said debate was growing in the White House over a gradual draw-down of forces. "This could produce a civil war, partition of the country and a regional war. We might see the country collapse," Foreign Minister Hoshiyar Zebari, a Kurd, told a news conference when asked about the New York Times report.
On the Record with Dr. Mahmoudi debuted at its new time and place: Fridays on News & Views. This week Dr. Mahmoudi, our senior managing editor, discussed VOA’s mission and charter and contrasted our policies with that of some not so democratic country’s media by emphasizing the key points of VOA’s journalistic code. He explained how although the U.S. government funds us we represent American interests and not those of any particular party or administration in power. “We represent a broad range of American political views across our programming. Through our actions, we demonstrate democratic principles. We have a mature audience and will not tell them how to think or to act. They can reach their own conclusions about our programming.” Regarding a recent Wall Street Journal column criticizing our presentation of a news segment, Dr. Mahmoudi said “it was not entirely accurate” and that we represented both sides of the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict. Responding to an audience e-mail who criticized VOA for allowing a female guest on with an Islamic headdress, Dr. Mahmoudi said that Americans do not discriminate and that we tolerate all points of view in our programming.
History Channel programming included a documentary on the history of comets and their impact on planet earth; “Massacre at Mystic”, documenting an infamous clash between English settlers in the Connecticut River Valley and the Pequot Indian tribes in 1637; and a biography of one of America’s most famous founding fathers, “Benjamin Franklin: Citizen of the World.”
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History Channel programming opens PNN’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. Persian News Network shows complement PNN’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 PNN language Internet site is at www.VOANews.com/persian.