Reaching Millionsof Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington D.C. - October 5, 2008… Major stories this week included live reporting from Capitol Hill on the $700 billion financial bailout package for Wall Street. From Wall Street to Main Street, PNN was on campus to cover the Vice Presidential Debates at Washington University in St. Louis. In foreign policy, PNN continued coverage of the IAEA talks, including coverage of nuclear negotiations with India and North Korea.
THE VICE PRESIDENTIAL DEBATES: A FOCUS ON IRAN
News and Views October 1 - PNN was live on location for the vice presidential debate between candidates Governor Palin and Senator Biden. According to preliminary figures from Nielsen Media Research, it was the most-watched vice presidential debate in history. Senator Biden opened the debate held at Washington University in St. Louis debate by blaming the Republican Party for the dismal handling of the American economy over the eight years of President George Bush's administration. Senator Biden defended his running mate, saying Senator Obama’s plan to raise the taxes of Americans making more than $250,000 annually is as a matter of "simple fairness." A feisty exchange ensued while debating foreign policy in the Middle East. Governor Palin accused Senator Obama of preparing to wave a “white flag of surrender” in Iraq. Senator Biden countered saying that the United States was wasting $10 billion per month in Iraq while ignoring the real hotbed of terrorism in the mountainous border between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Governor Sara Palin (R-AK) stated, “Diplomacy is hard work by serious people. It's lining
out clear objectives and having your friends and your allies ready to back you up there and have sanctions lined up before any kind of presidential summit would take place."
Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE) reflected his knowledge of Iran’s government saying, "It surprises me that Senator McCain doesn't realize that Ahmadinejad does not control the security apparatus in Iran. The theocracy controls the security apparatus ...Our friends and allies have been saying, ‘Sit down. Talk. Talk. Talk.’... And John McCain has said he would go along with an agreement, but he wouldn't sit down. Now, how do you do that when you don't have your administration sit down and talk with the adversary?"
Spokesman for Senator McCain, Tucker Bounds, commented that the public has found a new voice of change in the election saying, “It was exceptional and a commanding performance by our VP nominee Governor Palin.” He pointed out that Senator McCain and Governor Palin do support engaging in diplomatic efforts to have a different Iran."
Senator Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, stated that the debates reflected more of the same middle class policies and philosophies of the last eight years of rule by President Bush.
News and Views October 3 - Political analyst Babak Yektafar spoke with PNN about the concentrated focus on Governor Palin at the debates. Mr. Yektafar said, "Because of the ridicule that Governor Palin had to go through for her stumbles in her interviews with major U.S. networks, everyone was anxious to see if she would pass a minimum threshold. Expectations were deliberately set very low for her." He added, "But her remarks were devoid of any substance." According to sources, Senator Biden deliberately avoided any personal attacks against Governor Palin. According to Mr. Yektafar, the handlers of both camps had instructed each VP candidate to go after the top of the tickets and avoid criticizing each other.
GENDER IN POLITICS DEBATED
News and Views October 2 - PNN gathered opinions on this election and thoughts on the debates from faculty members of Washington University. Professor Leila Sadat appreciates both Governor Palin and Senator Biden for their candid nature and humor. Veteran producer of the Golden Globe-nominated HBO film ‘Live from Baghdad’ commented on the historic election saying, “A woman came from the PTA to become Mayor and Governor of Alaska. This is a Frank Capra story. Wonderful character, she is likable and honest but she maybe the most likely to make an error because of her robotic response and not being spontaneous.” Law Professor Cheryl Block spoke for Clinton supporters saying, "I think it is terrific that a woman is on the ticket but it is ridiculous that they think she might get Clinton supporters."
Today’s Woman October 3 - Continuing its discussion about gender in politics, PNN spoke with students and faculty at Washington University where the vice presidential debate was held. An Iranian American student did not find issue with the gender question but said, “I don't agree with Governor Palin's position on many issues... the debate won't be a good measure of her success because this has been rehearsed many times and they agreed that moderators cannot ask a follow-up question." Dr. Nader Mozami, a faculty member in the Department of Medicine commented, "It is not a matter of being woman or man. When Senator Clinton was running against Senator Obama it was fantastic because she is a real politician but Governor Palin is not... it is unfortunate that all questions and the format of the debate has already been chosen so there will be nothing surprising." Another female student and member of the College Republicans felt differently about Governor Palin’s efforts by remarking, "Even though some polls are suggesting Governor Palin is losing her base, I am very optimistic that she will do fine because she is a great speaker and a real maverick... she went against her party in Alaska. Her stance on global warming differs from Senator McCain and I believe this would help the ticket."
UN PASSES SECURITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION AGAINST IRAN
News and Views September 29 - The United Nations Security Council unanimously passed a resolution ordering Iran to halt nuclear enrichment work. However, the 18-line resolution poses no new sanctions on Iran. Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization called the resolution “toothless”. Meanwhile from Vienna, IAEA Chief Mohammad El Baradei again urged Iran to implement all transparency measures including additional protocols required as soon as possible in order to build confidence in the international community. El Baradei said, "I regret that we are not still in a position to make progress regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran." Chief nuclear negotiator for Iran, Saeed Jalili, reacted to the 4th UNSC resolution against Iran saying, “These [resolutions] are not constructive." Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice described the resolution as a very positive step which reflects the strong unity among the P5+1. According to the VOA Jerusalem bureau, it is reported that the U.S. has provided Israel with an advanced radar system in case of a missile attack by Iran. Ryan Crocker, U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, believes that Iran may be trying to thwart the security pact between Washington and Baghdad saying, "The reason Iran does not want to see an agreement has to do with their fundamental desire to oppose the development of a fully secure and stable Iraq. I think they would like to keep Iraq off balance as a way of being able to control events here to the satisfaction of Tehran." Ironically, Iran and Syria are also vying for a seat on the IAEA’s Board of Governors (BOG). If either country gained a seat on the BOG it would become incredibly difficult, if not impossible, to pass a resolution on Iran. El Baradei said, "I regret that we are not still in a position to make progress regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran."
News and Views September 30 - IAEA Chief, Mohammad El Baradei, expressed hope that North Korea would return to the Non Proliferation Treaty. An IAEA announcement last week said Pyongyang had asked the agency to remove its seals and surveillance monitors in the reprocessing facilities. Pyongyang also advised the IAEA that it would be feeding the equipment with nuclear material and that IAEA inspectors would not have access to their facilities anymore. El Baradei voiced his disappointment, "The DPRK authorities last week asked our inspectors to remove seals and surveillance equipment to enable them to carry out tests at the reprocessing plant.” He stated further, “Nevertheless, I still hope that conditions can be created for the DPRK to return to the Non-Proliferation Treaty at the earliest possible date." Also at the IAEA yesterday, Aliasghar Soltanieh, Iranian ambassador to the agency, accused the U.S. of using the IAEA for its own objectives, saying sanctions will not deter Iran from pursuing enrichment and other nuclear peaceful activities.
IRAN’S PRECARIOUS ECONOMY
Roundtable with You October 1-In our ongoing conversations about Iran’s financial situation, Dr. Patrick Clawson joined PNN on set, and noted that much of President Ahmadinejad's defiance is fueled by unprecedented oil income. Dr. Clawson, Deputy Director of Research at Washington Institute for Near Eastern Studies, asserts that if the oil prices in the international market falls below $85 a barrel, Iran's economy, which is currently “one-dimensional, and oil revenue based, will go into severe deficit, and a depression might hit the nation.” The current problem in Iran, according to Dr. Clawson, is that policymakers have allowed their ideologies to prevail over common sense and economic wisdom, convinced that high oil income would sustain that country. As a result, Iran has negative growth, whereas it used to have an annual GDP of 9.8%, and the average income in Iran is not much higher than it was thirty years ago.
WALL STREET FINANCIAL BAILOUT
Roundtable with You September 29 - PNN spoke with economist Dr. Fereydoon Khavand, professor of international economic relations at the University of Rene Descartes in Paris, about the reaction to the $700 billion financial bailout package. According to Dr. Khavand, one of main reasons for the economic crisis in the U.S. is due to lax regulations, which allowed financial institutions to extend large amounts of credit, with little oversight, for sub-prime mortgages to individuals who then defaulted on the payments. Dr. Khavand further explained that the mortgages were then turned into securities, which were sold to investors all over the globe. These bundled securities, or collateralized debt obligations (CDOs), are an unregulated type of security. Due to the lack of regulation, these CDOs became a larger part of the problem when investors defaulted on their payments. Dr. Khavand said that because Iran's economy is not connected to that of the free market and it is solely based on oil revenue, it may not be affected directly by the financial crisis. However, he commented that officials must "be in constant prayer that the price of oil does not continue to fall; otherwise, Iran will go into a recession."
News and Views September 29 - In continued coverage of the Wall Street crisis, PNN spoke with Karim Pakravan, a former Vice President for JP Morgan and Lecturer at DePaul University’s College of Commerce. Mr. Pakravan put the $700 billion plan in perspective for PNN viewers by explaining possible short and long-term outcomes of the package. Mr. Pakravan believes the plan will be effective in the end, pointing out other economic systems that have bounced back after suffering difficult economic periods.
News and Views September 30 - PNN interviewed Dr. Siamack Shojai, Dean of the School of Business at Central Connecticut State University, about the rejected bail out plan. Dr. Shojai specializes in global finance and he has authored books on this subject. He told PNN his thoughts on the matters by stating, “This is a democracy. Lawmakers are responding to the calls from their angry voters.” In stating the reasons for the failure, Dr. Shojai commented, “The plan was rejected for both political and economic reasons. If the crisis continues, the damage will be lasting and dangerous. Everyone is doing what they can to prevent this from happening.”
News and Views October 1 - PNN explored the financial crisis further by speaking with university professor and oil expert Dr. Feridoun Feshraki. Dr. Feshraki commented that the financial crisis has two distinct impacts. First it affects the oil market and prices because demands for oil decline, forcing out some players in the futures market. Second, it affects natural gas output. He commented that, “Despite pressure on the Islamic republic of Iran, the Islamic government tries in different ways to export her gas. Of course, this year the government is experiencing more difficulty than last year in that regard.” Through follow up, PNN learned that there may be a possibility in the future for sending gas exports to Pakistan and India. Dr. Feshraki concluded the interview by saying that sanctions worry companies and that, “Sanctions against the Islamic government applies to investment, not negotiations.”
LAWMAKERS REVISE BAILOUT BILL
News and Views September 30 - PNN was on hand to cover Congressional leaders as they scrambled Tuesday to find out what changes are needed to sell the failed $700 billion financial system bailout to rank-and-file members. Senator Obama proposed a plan that some House Republicans had pushed earlier: raising the federal deposit insurance limit from $100,000 to $250,000. The aim of this change would be to reassure nervous Americans - and hence their elected representatives in the Congress- that the legislation would shore up the faltering economy. PNN apprised its viewers of the huge sell-off in the stock market, the biggest single-day plunge of the DOW, 778 points. The House vote and the market's terrified reaction shook Washington and New York - even overseas markets - but no immediate solution seemed at hand. More than two-thirds of Republicans and 40 percent of Democrats opposed the bill. In all, 65 Republicans joined 140 Democrats in voting "yes", while 133 Republicans and 95 Democrats voted "no."
News and Views September 30 - Immediately following the bailout vote, Republican leaders blamed their failure to secure more votes on the partisan tone of Speaker Nancy Pelosi's pre-vote speech on the House floor. "There were a dozen members who we thought ... we had a really good chance of getting on the floor," said Minority Leader John Boehner of Ohio, "And all that evaporated with that speech." But Pelosi insisted the Democrats "more than lived up to their side of the bargain"; instead claiming the gravity of the situation "has not been received yet by the Republican caucus". Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi drew criticism for her statement: "Today when the legislation came to the floor, the Democratic side more than lived up to its side of the bargain. While the legislation may have failed, the crisis is still with us." Republican House Minority Leader John Boehner’s statement echoed other critiques: "I do believe that we could have gotten there today had it not been for this partisan speech that the Speaker gave on the floor of the House. We put everything we had into getting the votes to get there today, but the Speaker had to give a partisan voice that poisoned our conference, caused a number of members that we thought we could get to go south."
SENATE PASSES WALL STREET RESCUE BILL
News and Views October 2 - In a historic moment, PNN reported that the Senate passed the $700 billion financial bailout package. However, the bill must gain approval by the House before the President signs it. Senator Hillary Clinton stressed the urgency of action adding that, “This is a sink or swim moment in the U.S. history.” One important aspect of the new version of the bailout package is shielding bank deposits. The law temporarily raises the FDIC insurance cap from $100,000 to $250,000.
News and Views October 2 - PNN’s efforts to educate viewers about the global effect of the financial bail out package, PNN interviewed American University of Paris economic professor Jamshid Assadi who said the bailout package should not be viewed as a long-term package, and at best it will have a temporary effect on financial markets. "It cannot be a cure unless there are structural changes made to the way we do business," he added. He further added that the phenomenon of globalization, especially in the world of finance, has made it possible for this crisis to spill over to Europe and Asia. He concluded by saying, "The fact that we had to deal with this severe crisis in our financial markets does not mean that markets lack integrity. It just means that we should tighten our regulations and be more vigilant when speculators run amok with excessive speculation."
CAPITOL HILL GRIDLOCK OVER BAILOUT PACKAGE
News and Views October 1 - In PNN’s continued coverage from Capitol Hill, Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) stressed the necessity of immediate action. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) supported Reid by saying, “Being inactive in the issue of the proposed package is not an option for the people’s representatives.” However, some members of Congress have doubts about the bailout, which President Bush and Secretary of Treasury Henry Paulson consider critical for saving the economy. These doubts are largely rooted in the fear that this bailout will only end in saving “solely the fat paychecks of the CEOs on Wall Street.” The Senate is set to vote on the bill this afternoon.
News and Views October 3 - PNN spoke with members of Congress amid hot discussions regarding the bail out package, while the Dow Jones fell another three hundred points by the end of yesterday. According to Friday’s edition of the Washington Post, some analysts believe that even if the plan were passed now, it would not affect the market until mid ’09. Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House, has insisted that the House is working hard on evaluating the revised version of the bill, which she believes is a more reasonable plan. Rather than focusing on the Dow Jones, Congresswoman Pelosi added that the Representatives would focus on the economic status of “Mr. and Mrs. Jones,” which is a reference to middle class Americans. President Bush is quite confident that the bill will pass the House. Many members of Congress seriously oppose the bill, as so do many ordinary middle-class citizens, including a large group of protesters who gathered in front of Congress on Thursday. Some members of Congress do not believe that all parts of the bailout plan are acceptable according to financial theories. Nevertheless, members such as Joe Wilson (R-SC) believe Congress must act in the interest of the public. Some pessimistic onlookers and analysts think that the passage or rejection of the plan would not have any kind of drastic effect on the state of the economy, at least not anytime soon. Some members of Congress say they cannot lay their responsibilities aside and shy away from the people who are struggling; in essence watching the American Dream evaporate.
UPDATES ON THE U.S. PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN
News and Views October 1 - According to recent ABC and Washington Post polls, Senator Obama has lost some points by potential voters due to the worsening financial situation. Nevertheless, he is still leading McCain in the polls. A poll by CNN shows that the state of the market plays a critical role in defining public decision. According to a Time magazine article on research by the Pew Center, 76% of Americans have little confidence in the financial situation and the management of Wall Street.
PNN Online October 2 - A new election feature to PNN ONLINE includes a webpage which highlights the history and biography of each American president, starting from George Washington and leading up to our current president George Bush. Each featured presidential biography includes a complimentary brief on the history of Iran during each president’s term. As a daily series, a portrait of each president will be posted through November 5th, when the portrait and biography of America’s 44th president will be portrayed.
Late Edition October 2 - PNN spoke with college students about the importance of the youth vote in the upcoming election. Reports show presidential candidates Senator McCain and Senator Obama pushing hard to win the support of more than 50 million Americans between the ages of 18 and 30. Further, it is expected that America’s youth will turn out at the polls in record numbers this November. PNN spoke with students at American University and Georgetown University and learned about their plans for Election Day. PNN also interviewed Dr. Curtis Gans, who is the Director of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate and an expert on voting matters. Dr. Gans explained that this election is most important for the younger generation because they will be most affected by the outcome. “They have legitimate worries out there about the kind of world they’re going to live in,” he concluded.
PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE FOLLOW UP
News and Views September 26 - PNN’s coverage of the presidential debates included live interviews with the following members of government:
Senator John Kerry (D-MA): "I think Senator Obama doesn't need anybody's advice right now. I think he's going to do just terrifically because there's such a distinct difference between his approach on foreign policy and Senator McCain’s. Senator McCain has been the cheerleader in chief for a foreign policy that has failed in Iraq. It's been more dangerous, made us more dangerous in the Middle East and in the world. Hamas is more powerful. Hezbolla's more powerful. Iran's more powerful. Al Qaeda’s reconstituted in 80 countries and Barack Obama knows that you can't fight global extremism by occupying Iraq....The major difference begins with Barack Obama's willingness to work with other countries well in advance and to do the diplomacy necessary so that you're in the position to have some leverage. What's happened with Russia and with China and the fact that we've stayed away from the discussions with the British, the French and the Germans for so long is that we in fact made the route to be able to bring sanctions against Iran much more complicated."
Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC): "I am convinced the Iranian regime doesn't want nuclear power. They want a nuclear weapon and we can't let it happen…Russian needs to hear: you know that I've tried to be your friend here, but this is a bridge too far...If Russia would talk to Iran it would help. It's not in Russia's interest in my opinion for Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon."
Robert Gibbs, Senator Obama’s Senior Advisor: "Borrowing money from China to pay the Saudis for oil makes us dependent on their actions in the Middle East so obviously we've got a lot that's intertwined... Senator Obama is a strong proponent of sanctions on Iran.”
Governor Bill Richardson (D-NM): "It's important we not have nuclear weapons in Iran but also try to find ways to work together on Iraq, on nuclear proliferation, to make sure that America once again cares about the Middle East and the Persian Gulf but it'll be a tough new relationship but I think we need to start talking and working with each other."
Congressman Robert Wexler (D-FL): “First and foremost Iran must stop its enrichment program, agree to a legitimate inspection program. They must stop their financial support of terror. I mean there are a whole host of other issues here that are related. The stability of Lebanon in many respects will depend on our ability to engage with Iran in a more productive fashion."
Governor Haley Barbour (R-MS): "We're going to have a great debate tonight. This is a wonderful place for it... the University of Mississippi has done a fantastic job in preparation…If you're going to have a debate about foreign policy, how can there not be parts that are about economics? We have a global economy. When you look at trade- a big issue in American politics- so the foreign policy impacts on the economy means the economy must be part of this…I think Senator McCain's experience and strength, his known trustworthiness is his big asset. Obama's a tremendous performer. He's got... you know he can charm the skin off a snake and what I think you'll see tonight is substance in McCain and sizzle with Obama and we'll see whether the people like substance or sizzle."
REPUBLICANS PULL OUT OF MICHIGAN
News and Views October 2 - PNN learned that Senator John McCain has abandoned efforts to win Michigan. Polls show support in Michigan has been shifting rapidly to Senator Obama ever since the first presidential debate on September 26 in Mississippi.
NUCLEAR TALKS IN NORTH KOREA AND INDIA
News and Views October 1 - PNN reported that U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill arrived in North Korea for talks about Pyongyang’s nuclear disarmament process. The intended outcome of the talks remains uncertain due to the fact that North Korea remains on the U.S. terrorism blacklist despite submitting an account of its nuclear facilities. It is expected that Mr. Hill will suggest some form of compromise agreement during the Pyongyang talks.
News and Views October 2 - In continued coverage on nuclear talks with North Korea, U.S. lead negotiator, Christopher Hill, reported that he had held “detailed” and “substantive” talks regarding Pyongyang’s disarmament process. In another development, Iran’s ambassador to the IAEA said that Tehran would continue its uranium enrichment until the international community offers a legally binding commitment to provide nuclear fuel supply to Iran.
News and Views October 3 - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice headed to India to hold talks with officials on a range of issues including counter-terrorism. She also hopes to sign the U.S.-India nuclear deal that the U.S. Congress approved. It is reported that Indian officials have asked that President Bush sign the nuclear agreement as a condition to India’s approval. U.S. nuclear envoy Christopher Hill did not divulge much about the content of his 6-party talks, saying he would first have to brief his counterparts at the State Department. A State Department spokesman said that verification of North Korea's declaration is necessary in view of that country's history. In other news, the State Department says it “understands” that a license has been granted to the American-Iranian Council, the U.S.-based NGO to open an office in Tehran. The spokesman directed reporters to the Treasury Department for more information. Several messages left at the Treasury from VOA-PNN about this matter have gone unanswered.
IRANIAN MINISTER FALSIFIES CREDENTIALS
News and Views October 1 - Advancing its coverage of Iran’s Interior Minister Ali Kordan, PNN reports that Kordan submitted a formal admission of his false academic credentials. He wrote a letter yesterday to President Ahmadinejad admitting his honorary doctorate in law in comparative legal studies from the University of Oxford was falsified. PNN reviewed the history of Mr. Kordan's scandal over the past year by speaking with former Iranian MP and lawyer Ghasem Shole Saadi in order to gain further insight into this matter. Mr. Saadi explained that this falsification of credentials is pervasive saying, "He has committed a crime by lying in the Parliament about his Ph.D. but in fact when you look deeper, you see that this ‘degree fever’ in Iran is not only in academic levels, but even in seminary we have the same problem. There are cases that a cleric was upgraded to Grand Ayatollah overnight.” This latter reference refers to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. President Ahmadinejad publicly defended Mr. Kordan by dismissing all degrees in general as “torn paper." Ahmadinejad has also used this phrase to dismiss UN Security Council resolutions against Iran's nuclear program.
DISCORD IN THE MAJLIS
News and Views October 4 - PNN spoke with Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba about reported discord in the Majlis between Mr. Larijani and opposition members. Dr. Diba explained that part of the recent opposition to Mr. Larijani is due to competition for the future presidential election. Secondly, President Ahmadinejad’s plan regarding subsidies is drawing criticism. Dr. Diba said that distributing oil revenues cannot solve all of Iran’s economic problems. Dr. Diba believes global economies are still greatly dependent on each other. He said, “A vast global development during the past few years strained the market…These days the economy is global, and a crisis in one country impacts the world.” In closing, PNN asked Dr. Diba’s opinion on the latest Security Council resolution. He stated, “This resolution is a defeat for Iran, especially with China and Russia’s approval of it.”
LIVE FROM IRAQ
News and Views September 29 - In live dispatches from Northern Iraq, PNN reports that Coalition forces arrested 5 Hezbollah militants in Baghdad. In response to the arrest, Iran’s ambassador in Iraq, Hassan Kazemi Ghomi, denies any connection with the arrested militants. U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Ryan Crocker, accused Iran of trying to interfere with a new security pact between Iraq and the United States. According to reports in Arab newspapers, Iran has been waging Internet attacks against Sunni websites. Further, they report that these attacks contradict claims made by the regime that Shiites and Sunnis should coexist peacefully. Iraqi president Jalal Talabani returned to Baghdad today after being treated for a heart ailment in London.
News and Views October 1 - Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki rejected legal immunity for American troops and contractors in Iraq. While the U.S. strategic security pact is in Iraqi and American interests, a legal framework of conduct for American troops and contractors is needed. In other news, Iran is expanding its influence in Iraqi Shiite regions. Further, Iran has an increasing expectation that the Iraqi Mahdi army will work to protect Iran’s interests abroad in the same manner as Hezbollah in Lebanon.
News and Views October 2 - PNN reports that southern Iraqi tribal leader Ahmad Ghane has accused Iran of interfering in Iraq’s internal affairs. Ghane called on the Iraqi government to expel Iran’s diplomats. Further reports indicate violence is on the decline as Iraq’s speaker of parliament praised recent security improvements in the country.
HUMAN RIGHTS NEWS
Today’s Woman October 2 - In a PNN exclusive, Today’s Woman included an original package on the Tahirih Justice Center. Tahirih, which is based in the DC area, provides psychosocial and legal assistance to female immigrants and girls facing gender-based violence. The justice center is named after a 19th century Persian who empowered women to reject the oppressions placed on them by society. Tahirih’s services include providing pro bono legal counsel and social services such as food, shelter, and medical care. PNN’s on site interviews of Tahirih’s annual benefit dinner included an interview with Mr. Hamid Nozari, a Berlin human rights specialist, on the importance of eradicating violence against women.
CAPITAL PUNISHMENT INCREASING
News and Views October 2 - PNN delved further into the topic of the increasing rate of executions in Iran, and spoke with London-based human rights activist Hussein Bagherzadeh. Mr. Bagherzadeh believes the death penalty is an act of violence which does not lead to decreased crime rates in civilized societies. "That's why most civilized nations have outlawed the practice," he added. "Unfortunately, in Iran we witness further trampling of due process which leads to innocent people facing the death penalty while criminals who have committed serious crimes go free," he said. Mr. Bagherzadeh dismissed the deterrence effects of the death penalty. He said that those who argue that putting criminals to death deters further crime don't pay attention to facts and figures which indicate that where capital punishment has become the norm, crime is more prevalent. "Iran is the prime example of this," he concluded.
FURTHER MORALITY LAWS DEBATED
Today's Woman September 29 - PNN interviewed human rights experts in Iran and Canada concerning the Society Protection Plan and the Psychological Protection Plan, which are related to already existing morality laws such as those governing the wearing of the hijab in public. In a phone interview with Iranian lawyer Mr. Mohammad Saifzadeh, PNN learned that while the protection plans have not yet passed through the Majlis, there are concerns that these plans contradict Iranian constitutional law. The following show segment discussed the status of human rights in Iran, acknowledging a recent letter signed by more than one thousand activists condemning Iran's punishment by execution. The letter was sent to Iran’s judiciary. Human rights activist Kianoush Sanjari contended that President Ahmadinejad’s accounts of political activities in Iran are deceptive and inaccurate. Human rights activist Nazanin Afshinjam joined the discussion via telephone from Vancouver. Ms. Afshinjam stated that the more signatures collected the more effective campaigns can be because they increase international awareness and pressure, which can then lead to changes in the rule of law.
Late Edition October 3 - PNN discussed President Ahmadinejad's interview on CNN with Hossein Alizadeh, Communications Coordinator for the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission (IGLHRC) in New York. Mr. Alizadeh described him as being deceptive in his denial of homosexuality in Iran. The IGLHRC has produced reports that evaluate human rights conditions in Iran and it has found criticisms in Iran's policies toward gays and lesbians. "We remain concerned by reports that some gays and lesbians are arrested in Iran, they have been sentenced to long prison terms, or death, after manifestly unfair trials by Islamic regime,” Mr. Alizadeh said.
TAHKIM VAHDAT RELEASES MANIFESTO
News and Views September 30 - The Office to Foster Unity (Tahkim Vahdat) in Tehran released its new manifesto on September 27. The office, which was once established as the regime's tool in controlling the universities, has slowly been distancing itself from the regime and asserting more autonomy. Last year it announced its total independence from the Islamic regime. As Iran's biggest student organization, the office has been trying to form alliances with social movements and syndicates. The aim of its manifesto is to inform the public that the focus of its office and practices will shift towards social engagements. Its former political practice is no longer the main focus because of its inability to affect political change. PNN spoke with Abdullah Momeni, the head of the graduate student union of Tahkim, to learn more about these developments. Mr. Momeni explained the change in focus to PNN as a policy shift, rather than a setback. Mr. Momeni also commented on the manifesto saying that it will help the office distance itself from what he called, "the dead end of political movements in Iran." Mr. Momeni further added that students should seek out practical ways of spreading this new manifesto and movement among ordinary people.
SUNNI MINORITIES FACE DISCRIMINATION
48 Hours October 4 - In continuing coverage of minority relations in Iran, PNN featured a discussion on religious minorities in Iran with A.S. Doshoki and Asad Moznebi. A.S. Doshoki is a London based human rights activist and Asad Moznebi is an independent journalist based in Toronto. The discussion centered on the treatment of Sunni Muslims in Iran. Mr. Doshoki stated, "Many Sunnis claim that the government discriminates against them. For instance, Tehran does not have a Sunni mosque despite the fact that one million Sunni adherents live there." Sunnis do not have reserved seats in the Majlis, although Sunni Majles deputies tend to be elected from among the larger Sunni communities. Mr. Moznebi added to the discussion by saying that the Iranian President has put his fellow deputies in high positions within provinces that have a Sunni majority. Mr. Doshoki agreed stating, "The Sunni also lack representation in government positions in the province where they form a majority, such as Kurdistan and Khuzestan provinces.” There is a general feeling that these forms of discrimination have led to a lack of Sunni presence in the executive and judicial branches, embassies, and universities. Mr. Doshoki added, "In the Islamic Republic any citizen who does not belong to the official faith of Shia Islam is considered a 2nd class citizen."
THE WASTED VIGIL
Late Edition October 4 - It its weekly Book Club segment PNN reviewed “The Wasted Vigil,” a book whose prose has been hailed by critics as both poetic and brutal in description. Written by Nadeem Aslam, an English author born in Pakistan, the book describes the lives of five different foreign nationals whose lives intersect in a post 9/11 Afghanistan. Acclaimed by critics, who called the stories mesmerizing and radiant, Aslam’s novel depicts the complexity of life and the ties which bind people together in today’s world.
ELECTRO POP FROM TEHRAN TO VIENNA
Late Edition October 4 - PNN featured a live interview with composer and journalist, Ardavan Taheri. Born in Mashad in 1975, Mr. Taheri began playing piano as a child, and he also plays the tar and setar. Taheri received his bachelor degree in music from the University of Tehran. He then worked as a journalist for different magazines and newspapers. In 2003, Mr. Taheri went to Vienna to complete his education in electro acoustics composition at the University of Music and Fine Arts, where he is currently pursuing a PhD. Mr. Taheri released his "Rumi from Balch to Vienna” in 2006, an album which explores electro pop acoustics and world rhythms. Critics appreciate his unique mixture of Eastern spirituality with Western musical elements.
AN INTERVIEW WITH A POET LAUREATE
News and Views October 5 - U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan granted PNN an interview about her appointment as the 16th Poet Laureate. PNN asked Ms. Ryan how she felt about the honor, to which she replied, “This award is granted to my poems, my public and such as a good voice that I have to work, while my worthier poems are effectual.” Although Ms. Ryan taught in the San Quentin prison for 5 years, she explained that her poems do not address social movements. Still she remarked, “Prisoners taught me how I could write a poem with simple words and invoke passion.” She plugged her latest book, “Flamingo Watching,” explaining that it is her mother’s monologue about inner pains. She spoke about her peaceful town, and wished everybody had a choice to use clean water and breathe clean air.
BROADCASTING COVERAGE IN IRAN
On the Record October 3 - PNN’s once-a-week program featuring senior managing editor Dr. Kambiz Mahmoudi focused on viewer responses to PNN programs broadcast in Iran. Dr. Mahmoudi explained that there are currently about 1,300 broadcasting satellites operating in space. Together they broadcast on 17,000 channels. Iran in particular broadcasts some 3,000 channels from 950 accessible satellites. However not all of these channels broadcast in the Persian language. According to data published in Iran by an internal media surveying organization, about 23 million Iranians watch PNN. Although there is some occasional signal jamming by Iranian authorities, technology enables PNN broadcasts to reach a large number of Iranians. PNN believes in the free flow of information and the availability of an array of programs. In closing Mr. Mahmoudi relayed that, “We are pleased that PNN programs are well received.”
This week on the History Channel - In USS Constellation: African Slave Patrol, a two-hour History Channel special, viewers are transported back to 1859 where the U.S. is on the verge of civil war. For years, the effort to stop the illegal trade is thwarted by indifferent and ambivalent leadership. Shot in High Definition and filmed on location in the UK, the two segments realistically and forcefully recreate the horror of the slave trade, the challenging mission of the African Squadron, and Constellation’s heroic effort to stop slave smugglers. Real Deal offers a closer look at Merle Haggard, an American country icon. Viewers learn of his wayward road to stardom, which included time spent at San Quentin Prison and a performance at the White House. Singers and songwriters Jewel and Clint Black movingly express how Merle influenced them and other performers. Next, the History Channel looked at the life of Patrick Henry in Voice of Liberty. Two hundred and thirty years have reduced the memory of Patrick Henry to seven words-"Give me Liberty or Give me Death"- but the life of this country lawyer from the Virginia Piedmont is the story of the growth and spirit of the American republic. Fiery, outspoken, yet personally prudent, Patrick Henry may well have been the first voice of the American people, the pied piper of liberty. Finishing up the week, in the first of a two part segment, A Primitive Soul paints a portrait of Pablo Picasso, an artist determined to set the world of art on fire. In his 91 years he tore apart convention time and again, and in the process he sacrificed his lovers, his wives and children for the thing that mattered most to him, his art.
PNN’s question of the week was “Do you agree with Mr. Ahmadinejad who said in a recent CNN interview that no one in Iran interferes with the private lives of citizens?” Out of 8,791 respondents, 557 or 6 percent said yes, 8,134 or 93 percent said no, while 100 or 1 percent 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 Farsi from A&E Television Network’s The History Channel. We intersperse 30-minutes of news breaks 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.
An unemployed engineer writes: “Whatever the Iranian President Ahmadi Nejad claimed at New York (UN General Assembly) was 100% false. It should be said that there is no freedom at all in Iran, let alone the absolute freedom Mr. Ahmadi Nejad claimed. People are not the rulers but slaves of the Islamic regime; 98% of people are against the regime. To make the long story short, if you want to find out the truth about anything, listen to authorities of the regime or read the state-run newspapers, and turn it around.”
From a News and Views viewer in Haft Tappeh: “Don’t think that religious minorities in Iran are the only people who are deprived of their social and human rights. As a Shiite Muslim (religion that has majority in Iran), I can say that poverty and misery is for everyone in Iran; torture and prison is for all Iranians, be they Jewish, Christian, Zoroastrian, Bahai, or Muslim.”
A Today’s Women viewer suggests: “Please produce a program about divorced women in Iran. Please discuss what the perception is and how people view divorced women in our society. What is their social place and what challenges do they have. Thank you.”
Bobak writes: “As I was reading George Orwell’s masterpiece “Animal Farm”, I saw incredible similarities between the Characters of the novel and the leaders and rulers of the Islamic Republic of Iran; their revolution and the Islamic Revolution of 1979 in Iran; … The fact that the book cannot be found in Iran’s book market is a prove that Iran’s rulers have noticed these similarities; and don’t want to be identified as Napoleon the Pig, Squiller the deceitful Pig, and other characters.”
A Student from Ghom writes: “Congratulations on your one-year anniversary of Today’s Woman program. Your program has been successful with regards to enlightening women about social and human rights issues. My family and me are delighted about having been able to follow your program since the start of this show. This show helped us know more about the women and their activities/causes in Iran and around the world. We love you and we watch Today’s Woman every night.”
A follower of the Bahai faith writes: “The Bahai minority is under too much pressure in Iran: among the many civil rights Bahai’s are not endowed under the Islamic rulers of Iran are freedom of speech; security, the right to higher education at universities and higher education centers; and government employment.”
Nima writes: “I have followed Today’s Woman for a month now. It is interesting that many of Today’s Woman viewers are males. I love you guys!”
Maryam writes: “I want to thank you for the Today’s Woman program. This program makes us feel closer to you. I am one of your steadfast viewers in Iran. If it’s possible for you, please produce some programs about the situation of Iranian immigrant women in other countries.”
A viewer from Karaj writes: “Mr. Ahmadi nejad, President of Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Venezuela, Bolivia! …I heard your excellent speech at the UN Headquarters. I was so happy to hear that you also know a country named Iran. I know that you are a great supporter of the poor and suppressed people around the world, and send millions of dollars to help them. Now that I know you are familiar with Iran, I want to share some of the conditions that Iranian people are struggling with in their daily lives, so you may allocate some of the nation’s oil income to the people who are most righteous to it. Mr. Ahmadinejad! You said 8% if people in Iran are well off and happy with their lives. Just come for a walk in the Capital’s downtown: you will see so many beggars, young and old, men and women. You can see school-age children who are not at school, but are begging on the streets instead. This is Iran, the country that elected you as President, but is poorer than all of the countries that are receiving financial support from your government.”