Washington, D.C. – September 15, 2008— Major stories this week included extensive coverage and live reporting on the seventh anniversary of 9/11; an exclusive live interview with Ambassador Janice Jacobs, the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs; reports on Iran and Russian nuclear reactor cooperation; a series on Women in Politics; live coverage of President Bush’s speech on the drawdown of US troop levels in Iraq; continuing coverage of the controversial Family Bill in the Iranian parliament, and a discussion of the quest for true democracy in Iran with Egyptian human rights advocate Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim.
PNN’s Special Coverage -- Remembering 9/11
News and View, September 11- PNN featured Michael Jacobson of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Jacobson worked with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, the National Counterterrorism Center, and served as counsel on the 9/11 Commission. Jacobson said "I believe that the US government, for all its strength, is not as nimble as it needs to be in confronting Al-Qaeda; a terrorist organization that changes its strategies and way of acting very frequently and is, in fact, quite nimble.”
News and Views, September 11- PNN featured live coverage from the Pentagon as President Bush dedicated the Pentagon Memorial. As thousands looked on, the President said in his speech that the memorial “is a testament to American’s strength, sacrifice and commitment to never forget what happened at the Pentagon seven years ago.” The President was joined by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Pentagon Memorial Fund President James J. Laychak.
News and Views, September 11- PNN spoke with Dell Dailey, State Department Coordinator for Counter Terrorism. He said more than 80 countries have cooperated in the effort to bring the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks to justice. He added “We also encourage political integration where it is needed.” Mr. Dailey disagreed with the notion that an overly aggressive approach by the United States in fighting terrorists might have alienated allies, adding that “there have been instances of disagreements, and we have tried to work through those.”
Additional live reporting included:
--Analysis by PNN’s technology expert on high-tech security advances—at airports and elsewhere—since September 11.
--Interviews with New Yorkers discussing how life and businesses have changed in downtown Manhattan since September 11.
--Analysis by PNN’s resident medical doctor who discussed the health fallout from the attacks, post-traumatic stress disorders and respiratory ailments suffered by victims.
--A discussion of how the arts have changed since September 11, with examples of films, plays, and books infused with 9/11 themes.
IRAN AND U.S. VISAS
News and Views, September 10 – PNN hosted Ambassador Janice Jacobs in an exclusive on set interview. Currently the State Department’s Assistant Secretary for Consular Affairs, Ambassador Jacobs previously served as Ambassador to Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. She addressed visa procedures for students, athletes, asylum seekers, medical treatment visas, relatives in the U.S., focusing on specific cases: “Last year 12,400 visas were issued for Iranians, so it is possible to come to this country. This year will be the same.” Jacobs added, "The U.S. government is very supportive of having Iranian students, scholars, and tourists come to the U.S.” The Ambassador did temper her statements however, offering practical advice: “since Iran is on the list of countries sponsoring terrorism, Iranian nationals are subject to additional checks, but we encourage them not to loose interest and find a way to apply.”
SEEKING TRUE DEMOCRACY
Roundtable, September 10 – PNN interviewed Egyptian human rights advocate Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, Professor of Sociology and Chairman of the Ibn Khaldun Center for Development, live on set to discuss Democracy and Freedom in the Middle East. He has authored twenty books and more than one hundred scholarly articles. Dr. Ibrahim’s career as an activist began in the 1960s. When he became a whistle blower in Egypt and uncovered corruption and scandals involving the President of Egypt, he was convicted and jailed. His work pioneering the Arab Human Rights movement has been recognized through the receipt of twenty prestigious international awards. During the discussion Dr. Ibrahim asserted, “An important aspect of the lack of democracy in Egypt and the Middle East is that the major powers of the world, mainly the U.S., do not confront dictators with swift action.” He further noted that the Egyptian and Iranian people seek true democracy and free elections saying, “Iran suffers from lack of brave leadership, and has gone from a authoritarian regime, into a theocracy, that respects no type of elections nor freedom.”
Today’s Woman, September 10 - Continuing its focus on human rights in Iran, PNN discussed a recently released Human Rights Watch report on the executions of minors internationally. According to the report Iran has executed twenty-six minors since January of 2005, propelling Iran’s rank as the leading executor of minors out of the five countries profiled. The show also featured an interview with Dr. Mehrdad Darvishpour, sociologist based in Stockholm. The discussion focused on human rights and the various social movements in Iran. Dr. Darvishpour contended that human rights encompass more than practicing democracy; human rights include the freedom from prosecution based on gender, religion, or politics.
IRAN AND THE FAMILY PROTECTION BILL
Today's Woman, September 8 – Throughout the week PNN’s Today’s Woman
focused on a major victory for a coalition of women activists in Iran concerning the highly controversial Family Protection Bill going through Iran’s Parliament, or Majlis. Language in the bill that grants men the right to practice polygamy without the consent of their initial wife was ultimately withdrawn. The program included a phone interview with Iranian lawyer Geeti Pourfazel. She argued that granting men rights for polygamy and temporary marriages in the twenty-first century is unacceptable. Dr. Akbar Karami, an analyst inside Iran, also contributed, saying in order for democracy and freedom to exist in Iran, women’s issues must be addressed.
U.S. TROOPS IN IRAQ
News and Views, September 9 – PNN carried live the President’s speech to drawdown to U.S. troop levels in Iraq. President Bush said he would withdraw approximately 8,000 soldiers from Iraq by February and send 4,500 soldiers to Afghanistan. “Here is the bottom line,” the President said, “while the enemy in Iraq is still dangerous, we have seized the offensive, and Iraqi forces are becomingly increasingly capable of leading and winning the fight." PNN quotes Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama reacting to the redeployment as “very modest”, claiming too few troops are coming out of Iraq and too few are going to Afghanistan to fight the strengthening Taliban insurgency.
IRAN’S PRESENCE IN IRAQ
News and Views September 8 – PNN’s stringer in Northern Iraq reported live from Irbil on what is believed to be further evidence of Iran’s presence in Iraq. He reported that Iraqi security forces said they arrested 8 militants near Iran/Iraq boundary. Four of them were claimed to be Iranians working for the Qods forces, special units of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. When confronted with the reports, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, countered by saying that the U.S. is in Iraq. Though that does not threaten Tehran, Qomi adds, the U.S. presence ends up being bad for Iraqi citizens.
Continuing its live reporting from Iraq throughout the week, PNN also discussed the more than one thousand Iraqi refugees in other countries have returned to Diyala province, and claims by Iraqi Security forces in the Iraqi city Salaheddin who said about 1600 members of Al-Qaeda turned themselves in to Iraqi security forces.
THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN HEATS UP
News and Views, September 8 – As PNN continued its reports on the race for the White House, PNN discussed new polls showing Senator John McCain and his campaign’s boost from last week's Republican Party convention and the selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as his vice presidential running mate. PNN quotes Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice responding to a question about Sarah Palin's lack of experience in foreign policy, "These are decisions that Senator McCain has made. I have great confidence in him. I’m not going to get involved in this political campaign." Also quoted is Vice President Dick Cheney, who told reporters in Rome, there is no reason why Palin cannot be a successful vice president in a McCain administration. PNN Also reported on ABC News anchor Charles Gibson’s interview with Alaska Governor Sarah Palin.
News and Views, September 9 – PNN covered the event "Search for Common Ground" and analyzed how Senators McCain and Obama, if elected, might handle policy towards Iran. The event was hosted by the Conflict Prevention and Resolution Forum with panelists Steve Bartlett, President of the Financial Service Roundtable, and Martin Indyk, Director of the Saban Center at the Brookings Institute. The discussion broached the main differences between Senator Obama and Senator McCain in their foreign policy pronouncements. Both Indyk and Bartlett agreed that Iran is the first foreign policy challenge for the next president. They also debated each candidate’s attributes and the ways the two senators may confront this challenge when in office.
WOMEN IN U.S. POLITICS
Today’s Woman, September 9 – A series of original packages geared towards women in U.S. politics aired this week. Focusing on the life of Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin, PNN highlighted Palin’s background and family life. The report quoted her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention in which she introduced her family, acknowledging that her son will soon be deployed to Iraq to serve in the military. The report also included Palin's recognition of Geraldine Ferraro's 1984 bid for Vice President and Senator Hillary Clinton's efforts in the presidential campaign.
IRAN’S PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
Newstalk, September 10—As the US presidential is in full swing, PNN discussed with analysts Dr. Alireza Nourizadeh and Dr. Mohsen Sazegara the upcoming presidential elections in Iran. Iranians go to polls the middle of next spring. At issue were the chances of free and fair elections in the Islamic Republic in the wake of Iran’s Supreme Leader's quasi-endorsement of current President Ahmadinejad.
IRAN AND THE WTO
News and Views, September 9 – PNN explored the topic: “Is Iran ready to join the WTO?” in a two part series by interviewing Dr. Fariborz Raeesdana, a prominent economist in Iran, and Dr.Hadi Zamani, Iranian economist and IMF advisor. They discussed the World Trade Organization’s agreement to allow Iran to begin membership talks after the U.S. lifted its opposition to Tehran joining the body. Dr. Zamani explained "The World Trade Organization deals with the rules of trade between nations at a near-global level, is responsible for negotiating and implementing new trade agreements, and is in charge of policing member countries' adherence to all the WTO agreements." Dr. Raeesdana added that if Iran joins, it is left with no choice but to change its policies both in domestic and international economy saying, "We (Iran) have to change our export policies to job creation policies. We should stop injecting oil money to our industries so that they can become independent. Iran's industry will be hit in the face if it opens up its market to other products since most of these industries have been enjoying government subsidies for years.”
THE US CONFRONTS RUSSIA OVER PRESENCE IN GEORGIA
News and Views, September 11--PNN reported extensively on the US concern about Russia's continued presence in Georgia. In Brussels, Javier Solana, EU foreign policy chief, said in a month there will not be any Russian forces in Georgia except for the two breakaway regions, but Georgia’s ambassador to NATO believes there is a lot of work to be done till then. President George Bush’s announced he is withdrawing the civilian nuclear cooperation agreement with Russia because of its military strike on Georgia. State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, is quoted as saying “The President intends to notify Congress that he has today rescinded his prior determination regarding the U.S.-Russia Agreement for Peaceful Nuclear Cooperation.” McCormack said business is not as usual with Russia, except for those areas where it is to the benefit of both sides, such as Iran.
48 Hours, September 13 – The benefits and consequences for Iran concerning Moscow’s policy towards the Georgian conflict were examined during this in depth analysis and interview with Ali Geranmayeh, of the Middle East Institute at the University of London. Relations between Moscow and Iran may be friendly, but Moscow could fear a nuclear-armed Iran as much as, or more than, an equally armed U.S. scenario, Mr. Geranmayeh claims. Iranians are equally concerned of Russia’s intentions given her history of intervention in Persia. However Professor stated that Tehran stands to benefit as Russia raises the price of its cooperation with other United Nations Security Council members on curbing Iran’s nuclear program. He remarked, “Moscow has gained significant military victories in the Caucasus but that has been at a cost to its prestige in the region and in the world public opinion.” Professor Geranmayeh added that recruiting NATO members from the former Soviet bloc has put Russian in an untenable position because Russia would have to either face increasing isolation or ask NATO for membership into the organization.
News and Views, September 9 – PNN advances its coverage of Iran and Russia’s nuclear agreement, and reports on the two country’s cooperation on the Bushehr nuclear plant. The State Department spokesman Sean McCormack expressed concern with the advances, but said that cooperation might be tolerated on the condition that spent fuel is returned to Russia: “So Bushehr, in that sense, is a potential model for going forward so that Iran can have peaceful nuclear energy and not have access to the fuel cycle.”
REPORT ON IRAN’S NUCLEAR ACTIVITIES
News and Views, September 14 - PNN interviews military analyst Dr. Morteza Anvari on the eve of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report about Iran’s nuclear program. Mohamed El Baradei, Director General of The UN’s nuclear watchdog’s report, according to Dr. Anvari, will confirm that Iran cooperated with Agency and that it has removed some ambiguities over some of its nuclear activities. But the agency cannot confirm that Iran’s nuclear activities are peaceful. The report also will make it clear that Iran’s nuclear activities in some of the installations, which are located within military bases, were not under full supervision of the IAEA.
IRAN SANCTIONS WIDENED
News and Views, September 11 – Continuing its in depth analysis of Iran and sanctions, PNN reported that the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury announced sanctions on the Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines (IRISL), which included 17 affiliated entities. Stuart Levey, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, said in a statement: "Not only does IRISL facilitate the transport of cargo for UN designated proliferators, it also falsifies documents and uses deceptive schemes to shroud its involvement in illicit commerce." The company is accused of being complicit in Tehran's alleged nuclear weapons program.
TENSIONS IN SOUTH AMERICA
News and Views, September 12—PNN continues its focus on South America with reporting that Venezuelan President has ordered the US ambassador to that country to leave within 72 hours. Hugo Chavez has accused the US of trying to overthrow his government by supporting those opposed to him. Pointing to the Russian strategic bombers in his country, Chavez warned the US that to reconsider its behavior towards Venezuela. Venezuela issued the order in solidarity with his close ally in Bolivia, President Evo Morales, who on Wednesday ordered the expulsion of the U.S. ambassador in La Paz after accusing him of fomenting unrest. The program quotes the US State Dept. spokesman, Gordon Duguid, calling the Bolivian government's accusations against the US as baseless.
“SECRET WAR WITH IRAN”
News and Views, September 12 – Dr. Ronan Bergman- Israeli journalist, analyst, security adviser, and a member of the University of Cambridge Security Project in England—was interviewed by PNN on his latest book “The Secret War with Iran.” Dr. Bergman discussed how for the past thirty years the U.S. and Israel's secret services have been warring covertly with the Islamic Republic of Iran. At issue in the discussion was why Israel and Iran, once relatively friendly nations before the establishment of Islamic Republic in Iran, later become enemies. Dr Bergman noted, “One of the main reasons was the deep and close friendship and ties between the Shah of Iran and Israel before the Revolution. The Ayatollah Khomeini's ‘deep and burning hate’ towards the late shah of Iran, however, resulted in Iran’s new description of the U.S. and Israel as The Great and Small Satan” thus contributing to the rift between the countries. The author claims this war has had little success. Bergman also discussed both countries views on nuclear proliferation, referring to the Israel’s policy approach to the Begin Doctrine of 1981, which is outlined as a preemptive strike doctrine.
WAITING FOR AN ORDINARY DAY
Late Edition, September 13 – In its weekly Book Club, PNM’s Late Edition's discussed Farnaz Fassihi’s recent work, “Waiting for An Ordinary Day, The Unraveling of Life in Iraq." The author is the deputy bureau chief of Middle East and Africa for the Wall Street Journal. She has covered three wars and has reported extensively from the Middle East. She was in Iraq for four years immediately after the U.S. invasion. Assisi has written this memoir describing the daily life of people whose country is going through a war and analyzing the difficulties of covering the war.
MUSIC FOR A GENERATION
Late Edition, September 12—PNN has an exclusive interview with Moshe Namco, Iran’s best known, and most controversial contemporary musician. Namco’s concert in San Francisco at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco was highlighted. Famous for fusing traditional Persian music with Jazz, rock and blues, Namjoo has garnered large numbers of fans and critics alike in Iran, with equal enthusiasm and has been featured in the international press.
Late Edition, September 13—One of Iran’s most popular musicians joined PNN to discuss his career and the role of being a young Iranian-American pop singer. Shahryar discussed the differences in Iranian and Western music and Iranian singers must pay their respect to Iran's enriched literature and culture through their lyrics and music. Shahryar's lyrics include love, peace and freedom. As such, Iran’s government has deemed Shahryr’s work “against the Islamic Republic's policies” and he is not allowed to go back to Iran.
NEW MEDIA VS. NEWS CENSORSHIP
On the Record, September 10 – PNN’s Executive Editor and Ombudsman, Dr. Kambiz Mahmoudi talked about the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) panel discussion on the subject of “New Media vs. New Censorship”. The program elaborated on the emergence of new media, particularly the role of Internet. Also discussed was how “dictatorial governments use new technology to block the free flow of information,” and in some instances governments such as the Islamic Republic of Iran use “state sponsored blogs to distort news and information disseminated by the media of the free world.”
This week’s History Channel segments began with a two-part profile of Dwight E. Eisenhower, and offered the complete story of our 34th President. This complex personal history covers his early military career serving under Douglas MacArthur, to his triumph as Supreme Commander of the troops invading Europe in 1944. The 2nd segment profiles the life of Michelangelo Buonarotti, arguable the most famous, many would say the greatest, artistic genius who ever lived. The 3rd segment explores into the lives of the Rockefellers in a multi-generational tale of unbridled ambition, overbearing hubris and jaw-dropping generosity of one of America’s greatest founding families. The week’s final segment re-creates through photos and documents the life of George Armstrong Custer, heroic Civil War cavalry commander and controversial Indian fighter.
PNN’s question of the week was “Does the new proposed Family Act defend the families and family values in Iran?” Out of 5505 respondents, 430 (8%) said yes, 4877 (89%) said no, while 198 (3%) did not have an opinion.
The Persian News Network’s television programming complements its radio broadcasts. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four Iranian households tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. Programs also are streamed on www.voapnn.com.
PNN’s 7-hour program block opens with Today in Washington, a brief look at the latest news developments in Washington, as well as the content of PNN’s upcoming programs. Then we present cultural programming translated into Persian from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of newsbreaks throughout our original programming, which includes the following shows:
Today’s Woman, PNN’s newest program, had its debut September 27, 2007. The one-hour program features influential women from around the world discussing a full spectrum of topics, including social, medical, human rights, legal, sports and business.
News and Views, PNN’s
existing flagship, is now 2 hours in length, and features live news coverage of
the latest headlines from Washington, Iran and across the globe.
Roundtable with You is a talk show with expert guests, featuring discussion of current events, politics, popular culture and global health. Viewers and listeners from Iran and around the world participate in the show via phone calls and e-mails.
Late Edition begins with a wrap up of the day’s news and a close look at the day’s top story. Targeted to a younger demographic, the show also features segments on health, technology, sports, entertainment and culture.
NewsTalk is a new journalists’ roundtable discussion program that features a news update followed by an examination of the day’s top stories and an in-depth look at issues relating to Iran.
PNN INSIDER - VIEWER PERSPECTIVES
From a translation of an article published on Tabnak, a news website in Iran:
FOREIGN BROADCASTS IN PERSIAN OVERSHADOWING STATE RUN BROADCASTS
Since last summer, after injecting ultra conservative ideas into IRIB broadcasts, reducing the number of TV series and films, suspending young, active and blunt anchors and finally, not properly covering the Olympics, more viewers tune out from watching the IRIB and tuned in even greater numbers to VOA’s Persian News Network. About the same time last year, some inside and outside of Iran accused Radio Farda and VOA's Persian Service TV programs of lacking the abilities to attract audiences and had therefore called for a stop to their budget. Increasingly, though, Iranians are listening to Radio Farda and watching VOA's PNN. According to Tabnak 's correspondent, over the course of the past year, a number of Los Angeles based TV stations were also forced to discontinue their broadcasts.
Santi writes: “I’m really impressed by tonight’s program, by how you truly value your audiences. I had never seen such an interview with an Ambassador in this position, about visa problems of Iranians! And the time you spent on a marathon news program on an interview with Ambassador Janice Jacobs! It was in fact, an exclusive, as ever, free of any propaganda. Your questions were so realistic and reflected exact concerns of Iranians as though you live here. I don’t know what to say, this program was beautiful. I’m sure it has taken a long time to produce such a complete program. This is one of those jobs I promise you, people won’t forget.”
A Today’s Woman viewer writes: “The Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcast (IRIB) has started a new TV series during the month of Ramadan, which tries, implicitly and explicitly, to damage the reputation of VOA PNN among Iranians. In one of the Episodes of that TV series, the antagonist, a female member of a drug trafficking gang, was shown while she was at home, watching PNN's Today’s Woman. IRIB should be aware that such actions will not diminish your popularity and reputation among your viewers inside Iran. On the contrary, such attempts by a hypocritical media, such as the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB), against a reliable and popular one like yours, will just add to your value and reputation among us.
Hossein writes: “As the United States has done for those lost on 9/11/2001, I wish one day we inside Iran will be able to organize a remembrance gathering for the 3000 victims of the mass executions of the summer of 1988 in Iran, and build a monument for them. Thanks to VOA for keeping the memory of these murders of 1988 alive in it's different programs.”
Hossein from Ahvaz: “Thank you for your wonderful program about the disaster of September 11. Voice of America should be commended for having such great talents like Vafa Mostaghim who managed the show without a guest, and this is exactly what we, the oppressed people of Iran need -- A forum to express our thoughts and ideas, without someone as an "expert" to tell us what to think and what to believe. Thanks again!”
A Today’s Woman viewer writes: “Hello to the champions at Today’s Woman program. Thank you for leading this program toward issues that concern family issues and taboos in our society. By the way, your programs have become much more attractive.”
Vahid in the Persian Gulf: “Greetings. What sin have we committed so that we are obliged to deal with this brutal Regime? Now the authorities publicize the presidential election in Iran. This election is not legitimate, neither politically nor nationally. An eighty-year old man is sitting there and making decisions for 70 million people. It is a shame. Please let our voice be heard.”
Abbas from Qom writes: “Your show about the role of Al-Qaeda in Iran and the region was very interesting. Can you please also invite other guests to talk about the abuse of religion in Iran?” Shiva in Tehran: “Just a word of thanks to Mr. Sazegara for his excellent analysis on the role of Al-Qaeda, and the Iranian influence in the Middle East. It was fantastic to hear how Iranian government deprives its own people, but spends millions on terrorist activities.”
Mahshid from Rasht writes: “It was a sad story to see our fellow countrymen in Iraq and Turkey being abused by those governments, and not have a proper living environment. The more disturbing element is that the government of Turkey appears to be on the payroll of Iranian government, and the world is not doing anything about it. Thank you for at least opening our eyes to the reality of our lives.”
Hamid in Shiraz writes: “We are grateful to you for having a young director on your show. It was a fantastic experience, and a great way of showcasing to the Iranian youth that they can achieve anything they put their hearts and minds to.”