Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – July 23, 2007 . . . Major stories include Iran’s airing of the so called “confessions” of two Iranian American academics, exclusive reaction from Lee Hamilton, president of the Woodrow Wilson Center, reaction from Members of Congress including Reps. Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Brad Sherman (D-CA); The announcement of a new round of U.S-Iran talks in Baghdad over the future security of Iraq, live coverage of Sunday’s parliamentary elections in Turkey; an update on the jailed Iranian labor leader Mansour Osanloo, and the ongoing talks over North Korea’s nuclear program.
PNN broke normal programming format to cover the extraordinary airing of Iran's state television broadcast video featuring two detained Iranian-Americans, Woodrow Wilson Center’s Haleh Esfandiari and Open Society Institute’s Kian Tajbakhsh, late Wednesday and Thursday. The televised interviews were part of a documentary titled "In the Name of Democracy", which sought to link the academics to the US push to bring about a "Velvet Revolution" in Iran. Managing Editor Ali Sajjadi appeared on Late Edition immediately following the airing of the documentary, noted what had been said by both Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh and that there appeared to be no connection with the footage of Eastern European democracy movements that followed. This appeared to be an attempt by the Iranian government to create circumstantial evidence to prove that they were attempting a "Velvet Revolution" in Iran. Sajjadi believed the attempt unsuccessful, as they were not making a connection between what Esfandiari and Tajbakhsh said and the work of the people in Eastern Europe. Sajjadi discounted the credibility of the “confessions” because “we don’t know under what circumstances the so called confessions occurred and in democracies these sorts of things don’t happen. People don’t take them seriously.” Human Rights Watch expressed concern that Iranian authorities used coercive means to compel the two to make incriminating statements.
In an exclusive interview on PNN, Woodrow Wilson Center President Lee Hamilton questioned the justification for their detention and demanded their release. “She (Esfandiari) has nothing to do with anything that might undermine the Iranian regime. Haleh is innocent. She is just a scholar that works hard to build bridges between the American people and the people of the Middle East, including Iran. She was on a personal visit to Iran. ” Hamilton added that while the Woodrow Wilson Center receives a portion of its funding from the Congress and it promotes dialogue between the U.S. and Iranian people, it is not established to promote U.S. government policy. PNN Correspondent Vafa Mostaghim broke into normal discussion format on News Talk immediately following his on camera interview on Wednesday to report Hamilton’s reaction. The taped interview followed on Thursday.
In a live interview broadcast Thursday on News & Views, State Department spokesman Frank Finver said, “What the regime in Iran is doing right now is a blatant example of human rights violation and reflects badly on the regime. Right now we are watching to see what Iran is doing and we want Iran to release the detainees as soon as possible. We ask the Congress for budget for institutions that promote democracy and we exchange information and we have dialogue. This is not necessarily about Iran but other countries of the world as well.”
In an interview with the Persian News Network, Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) stated “I don’t think confessions after solitary confinement, intimidations, threats, and probable torture should be taken seriously by the Iranian people… If saying Iran should have a free democracy is a threat to the regime then what does that about the regime?” Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) added, “The Government of Iran appears to have a kidnapping problem. First kidnapping British sailors and now kidnapping a poor mother who is a democracy advocate… It would be amazing if great Iranian state was threatened by one sixty year old woman.”
In an exclusive live interview with News and Views, James Jeffrey, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State in charge of Iran policy, discussed the proposed second round of Baghdad talks between the US and Iran on Iraq’s security. Mr. Jeffrey conveyed that the US will relay its concerns about Iranian support for sectarian militants and EFP (explosively-formed penetrator) networks supplying lethal bombs to militias fighting American and Iraqi forces. He added that the US would demand Iran end this support so the Iraqis can establish security in their country. On another topic, Mr. Jefffrey said the US is appalled by the Iranians attempt to broadcast "confessions" made by imprisoned American-Iranians Haleh Esfandiari and Kian Tajbakhsh. He asserts that the US believes they are no threat to the regime and calls on their immediate release, and adds Iran should release another imprisoned American -Iranian Ali Sahkeri. Similarly the regime should let Nazzy Azima, the Radio Farda reporter who is barred from exiting the country, leave by her own free will. Jeffrey disputed the contention that the cause for their mistreatment is the US support for Democracy in Iran through funds appropriated by the US Congress. In reaction to Congressman Tom Lantos strong desire to visit Iran for talks with the responsible members of the Iranian government and parliament, Jeffrey said the Congressman is free to do whatever he wants to do in this regard, but cautioned against the trip while there are still Iranian-Americans held by the regime.
Speaking to News & Views regarding the second round of talks between the U.S. and Iran, Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) said, “They say in the English language talk is cheap which is true in both respect. It doesn’t cost to talk to Iran and on the same time I don’t put a lot of faith that those talk will lead to a diminution in Iranian support for terrorists, particularly Shiite terrorist. These roadside bombs with the high technology design to pierce armor have one particular source and that is the Islamic republic of Iran and a government there that is trying to facilitate the death of Americans.” Rep. Mark Kirk (R-IL) added, “We should always talk to Iran but we should not only talk about what is happening in Iraq, we should also talk about Iran’s funding of Hezbollah which is attacking the democracy of Lebanese people. I think we should support the elected government of Lebanon and foreign influences should not attack that young democracy.”
PNN reported live from Istanbul, Turkey on the parliamentary elections on Sunday where the ruling party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a broad victory taking nearly half of the total vote in what became a referendum on the future of Turkish democracy. Mr. Erdogan’s Justice and Development party took 47 percent of the vote, according to preliminary results. The election was significant in a country where secular and Islamic forces are vying for power and future of the country. VOA correspondent Nazzy Beglari reported live on both Saturday and Sunday from Istanbul, Turkey. She reported on the turnout and the major issues surrounding the election. There are approximately 700,000 Iranians living in Turkey and Beglari spoke to several. A man said the he is not afraid of the current turnout because they have seen the ruling party in power and they have shown that they are not a threat to democracy. However other Iranians are afraid that the ruling party would afterwards establish a Islamic Republic kind regime as of the type in Iran.
Speaking to News and Views Dr. Touraj Atabaki, Professor of History of the Middle East and Central Asia, Leiden University, the Netherlands said "I think Mr. Erdogan and his party are anxious to foster closer ties with the European Union as we saw in his first term as Prime Minister. He would like Turkey to play a role in diffusing crises in the region and also looks to the West for support in dealing with Turkey's Kurdish problem. Above all, he would like to reassure the West that his Islamist party derives its legitimacy from the electoral support of the Turkish people and is working to pave the way for further reform in the Turkish body politic.” Dr. Reza Taghizade, lecturer of political science and international relations at the University Aberdeen in Scotland, and who recently returned from visiting Turkey, told Roundtable with You that Mr. Erdogan’s victory was a forgone conclusion and that only its margin was in question. “He is obviously running on his economic track-record. He has been able to cure Turkey’s sick economy, lower the rate of inflation, and raise the standard living of average Turk.” In response to anchor Ali Farhoodi’s question that the Prime Minister’s detractors believe that he has a hidden agenda to turn the country into a theocratic state, Dr. Taghizadeh said that the Turkish Prime Minister has pledged to safeguard the country's secular traditions. Although he added that Mr. Erdogan’s past statements and his previous membership in an Islamist political party (Refah Party) has created a lot misgivings about his true intentions.
This week the Teamsters International Union publicly expressed outrage over the arrest and detention of Iranian labor leader Mansour Osanloo, president of the Vahed Bus Workers' Union in Tehran. Mr. Osanloo was beaten and abducted by Iranian security officials on July 10th and is being held in the Evin prison. He was been an outspoken critic of the regime in Tehran and an advocate for labor rights in Iran. He was a guest on News & Views last month from London while attending an international labor conference. The Teamsters demanded his immediate and unconditional release. Leslie Miller, a spokesperson for the Teamsters told News & Views, “His assault and kidnapping are a deliberate violation of his union rights and an attempt to intimidate union supporters in Iran. We are joining unions around the world in protesting this violation of human and union rights."
PNN reported on Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s visit to Syria where he met Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Thursday and pledged to strengthen the alliance between their countries. Ahmadinejad also met Hezbollah's leader Hassan Nasrallah in the Syrian capital. The backing Syria and Iran give to the Lebanese Shi'ite movement is the key to their alliance. “The relation with Syria is progressing daily and in every field and along all lines," Ahmadinejad told reporters. Parviz Dastmalchi, a human rights activist and victim of an assassination attempt by the Islamic Republic of Iran, told News Talk, “The foreign policy of The Islamic Republic of Iran from its outset has always been based on anti-Western cultural values, and the export of Iranian revolution.”
Persian News Network reported on the North Korean nuclear negotiations. The South Korean envoy to six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program says Pyongyang is willing to fully declare and disable its nuclear facilities by the end of this year, perhaps within the next five to six months. Envoy Chun Yung-woo feels "there are some expected obstacles, but also there might be obstacles that we don't know because this is a road that nobody has ever walked on. How to remove obstacles that may be hidden on that road, and how to draw a map to get there is our task." Envoys from the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States have spent the day talking about the next steps in a deal to disarm Pyongyang's nuclear program. Under the agreement, Pyongyang is to completely dismantle its nuclear programs and declare its nuclear stock in return for energy aid and possible political benefits. The chief U.S. negotiator, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, described today's talks as open and substantive, but he identified some potential difficulties. " We have got a long road ahead of us with many steps,” said Hill, “so let's see how quickly we can take those steps, and let's see how much ground we can cover."
The chief U.S. negotiator to six-party talks on North Korea's nuclear program says China is expected to propose a timetable for North Korea's nuclear disarmament. Meanwhile, U.N. inspectors this week confirmed that North Korea had shut down its main Yongbyon nuclear facility - a first step in February's deal for the country to end its nuclear aspirations in exchange for fuel and diplomatic incentives. The talks began Wednesday and were to wrap up today, but Japanese officials say they will likely continue into Friday. North Korea is next expected to permanently disable the Yongbyon complex and reveal its nuclear stocks and activities. Christopher Hill, the chief U.S. negotiator says, "So, we did okay in the first phase with the understanding that we missed just about every deadline and we don't want to do that anymore. So, I guess we have to be careful about deadlines. But if you don't have deadlines you will never get stuff done. So we have to balance that." North Korea has begun receiving 50-thousand tons of oil from South Korea as a reward for the shutdown, and is to eventually receive the equivalent of a total of one million (m) tons for disabling its nuclear facilities under a February agreement among the six countries.
This week’s History Channel specials included, “Mothers of Invention”, extraordinary stories of unrecognized American women inventors --- and their well-recognized inventions that we can’t live without; a documentary on the life of scientist Charles Darwin, his travails and his theory of evolution; an examination of the deadly 2004 tsunami that devastated Indonesia and Sri Lanka, “through the eyes of people who lived through it and scientists now studying its course.” Other documentaries profiled celebrated science fiction writer H.G. Wells and his work. Between 1895 and 1946 Wells wrote 165 full-length books. He forecast everything from chemical warfare and the atom bomb to computer chips and modern birth control. Benjamin Franklin: Citizen of the World revealed all the facets of this remarkable man--a man of science, a man of letters, a politician and diplomat, the son of a Boston soap boiler who through intelligence, talent and industry, rose to become a figure whom many have called the first citizen of the Eighteenth Century.
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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.