Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week
Washington, D.C. – April 14, 2008… Major stories this week included testimonies by Gen. David H. Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker who, in a reprise of their testimony from last September, told Congress that security has improved in Iraq and that its government is moving toward political reconciliation and economic stability; President Bush repeated long-standing U.S. accusations against Iran warning the Islamic republic to stop interfering in Iraq and characterizing Iran and al Qaeda as “two of the greatest threats to America”, also vowing that the United States will "act to protect our interests"; Iran announced that it has begun installing 6,000 new centrifuges at its main nuclear plant in Natanz; Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad appeared to cast doubt on the official version of the 9/11 attacks, accusing the U.S. of using them as a "pretext" to launch invasions; twelve people were killed and 202 injured in an explosion at a local mosque in Iran's southern city of Shiraz; a U.S. Navy spokesman said three speedboats of unidentified origin approached a U.S. patrol boat as it transited the Persian Gulf but stopped after a warning flare was fired. Exclusive interviews with U.S. Ambassador to the International Atomic Energy Agency Gregory Schulte; Ali Ansari, Director of Center for Iranian Studies at St. Andrews University, Scotland, on Iran’s recent parliamentary elections; Henry Precht on the 28th anniversary of Washington breaking off diplomatic relations with Tehran in the wake of the hostage crisis.
News and Views April 13 covered the blast at a local mosque in the southern city of Shiraz which claimed 12 lives and left scores injured. NAV presented a package with original footage of the explosion including a live interview with an eyewitness. Another interview was done with an attending physician at Namazi hospital where most of the injured were taken for medical treatment. Political commentator Alireza Nourizadeh provided analysis and discussed implications of this incident for Iran’s religious and ethnic minorities. No one has claimed responsibility for the blast. Iranian authorities, however, were quick to blame Iran’s Sunnis and the Bahai community for the blast.
News and Views April 7 reported that Iran would disclose new information on its nuclear program marking the first year since it claimed to have gone industrial-scale in uranium enrichment. An Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, following the footsteps of the Iranian president, rejected suspension following the Russian UN ambassador's call on Iran to come to the table. The Iranian government spokesman has rejected any type of incentives, but said the country would talk with European and non-European parties if they recognize Iran’s right to nuclear energy. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told Omani leaders on Saturday in Muscat that Washington will not take any options off the table but is committed to resolving the Iran nuke issue diplomatically. In Sochi, Russia, President Bush expressed his appreciation for Russia’s help in reducing tension that has come about as a result of Iran’s nuclear program. The two presidents then issued a joint declaration urging Iran to abide by UN demands. The declaration also welcomed Russian delivery of nuclear fuel, and the return of the spent fuel, making it unnecessary for Iran to enrich on its own soil. The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman also said it has received the U.S. request for another round of talks on Iraq, via the Swiss embassy in Tehran, and is studying it. The USS Abraham Lincoln’s Strike Force is on its way to the Persian Gulf to join the 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
News and Views April 8 reported on the talks between U.S. envoy Christopher Hill and North Korea’s Kim Kye Kwan at the American embassy in Singapore. Hill told reporters prior to the meeting that time was “running out” for a resolution of the deadlock over North Korea’s nuclear program. The U.S. diplomat said he was not looking for an agreement, but wanted to discuss some of the issues that have been keeping the two sides apart: those being the secret enrichment activities and the North nuke cooperation with other countries, which Pyong Yang has denied. One such country is Syria, on which Israel carried out an aerial attack in Sept 2007. The International Herald Tribune has quoted the Israeli Ha'aretz and Yediot Ahronot as saying the decision is aimed at making Syria think twice about its ties with North Korea and Iran. In a related development, Secretary Condoleeza Rice, in reaction to Iran’s announcement that it has been installing 6,000 new centrifuges, said she could not substantiate the claim but noted that “Iran is under three UN Security Council resolutions.” The French foreign minister characterized the development as “dangerous” saying that international sanctions should be fully enforced. A spokesman for the Chinese foreign ministry announced there would be P5+1 meeting in Shanghai on April 16.
News and Views April 7 reported on the implications of the Iraq congressional hearings for the three remaining contenders in the U.S. presidential race. All three serve on Senate committees where Army Gen. David H. Petraeus was to present what promises to be the most comprehensive - and politically charged - overview of the war before the August political conventions. Two of them - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D., N.Y.) and Sen. John McCain (R., Ariz.) - sit on the Senate Armed Services Committee. The third, Sen. Barack Obama (D., Ill.), sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Republican presidential candidate John McCain said calls from his Democratic rivals to withdraw U.S. forces from Iraq stand as a “failure of leadership” as they are making promises they cannot keep. Democrat Barack Obama said the failure rests with McCain’s support for an open-ended occupation of Iraq.
News and Views April 10 covered the press conference held by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in which they criticized President Bush’s Iraq War policy. They expressed that, if there was no change of course, President Bush would leave a failed war policy at the doorstep of the new president come January 2009. “The cost in our reputation in the world has been severely damaged. The cost in taxpayer dollars has been astronomical. And another question we have for the President is when are the Iraqis going to use some of their budget surplus for their own reconstruction instead of continuing to take us deeper into debt to pay for that reconstruction?” In a related development, a senior State Department official ruled out fresh demands from top democrats for any deal with Iraq on future U.S. troop operations to be submitted to Congress for approval.
News and Views April 9 covered the testimony of Gen. Petraeus on Capitol Hill. The top U.S. military commander in Iraq said that he was unlikely to call for another troop buildup in Iraq even if security deteriorates after the extra American soldiers return home this summer. Gen. David Petraeus told a House panel that such a move would be considered the last resort, in part because of the strain it would place on the army. First, the military could try to reallocate existing troops to respond to any hotspots. It also would rely more on Iraqi forces, which are improving in capability, he said. Petraeus had recommended to President Bush that the U.S. complete, by the end of July, the withdrawal of the 20,000 troops that were sent to Iraq last year to calm the violence there. Beyond that, the general proposed a 45-day evaluation period, to be followed by an indefinite period of assessment before he would recommend any further pullouts.
News and Views April 11 reported on the Bush Administration’s reaction to the decision by former President Jimmy Carter to meet with the head of the militant Palestinian group Hamas. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Mr. Carter was told such a meeting would be against the interests of peace and undercut efforts to isolate Hamas. Mr. Carter reportedly plans to meet with Khaled Meshaal late next week in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
Roundtable with You April 7 interviewed Elaheh Amani who heads the organization of Asian women and is chairperson of the board for the Women Intercultural Network. She discussed the social pathology of domestic violence against women and argued that human trafficking of Iranian women was an example of modern slavery practiced in the 21st century. Ms Elahi said she spoke at the UN Women’s Committee last month about human trafficking in the world, including Iran. Those who called during the program confirmed this and blamed the government of Iran for actually helping this slavery take place.
Today’s Woman April 7 reported on the release of workers’ rights activist Mahmoud Saalehi from a prison in Kurdistan, Iran followed by a discussion on a recent United Nations report regarding the status of women in Darfur. Also highlighted were the recent protests taking place in France concerning the independence of Tibet and the upcoming summer Olympics in China. In another segment, the panel of women hosts delved into how the arts can be used as a means of cultural exchange and how artistic expression has the ability to unite women. Also discussed was the Museum of Contemporary Art Museum in Tehran, Iran. Most of the art is underground and not on display. All panelists acknowledged that the arts should be available for the public to see and appreciate.
Late Edition April 11 interviewed renowned Iranian-American film director and television producer Reza Badiyi known for popular TV shows such as “Mission Impossible”, “The Six Million Dollar Man”, “Starsky and Hutch” and “Hawaii 5-0”. He reminisced about his career and his associations with other Hollywood celebrities like late director Robert Altman, who died in 2006. Mr. Badiyi discussed the globalization of the film industry. In his estimation, everything has changed in recent years and Hollywood increasingly looks to global markets to sell more. He added that movie attendance has declined in the United States, “forcing studios to cultivate a wider audience. That's why there are more foreign actors and directors in Hollywood, because they help the industry sell more tickets all around the world.”
Newstalk April 7 featured a panel discussion on the worsening human rights situation in Iran. Ms. Elahe Hicks, director of the Human Rights Planning Organization in New York, noted that pressures on women and civil rights activists have been on the increase and that activists are being held increasingly without any charge and are denied legal counsel. Mr. Reza Moini, with Reporters Without Borders, argued that bogus charges such as “threat to national security” are being used by the Islamic regime to prosecute journalists who are just doing their job.
Roundtable with You April 12 interviewed a Swedish-Iranian documentary filmmaker who has received international acclaim for putting under the spotlight some of Iran’s social ills such as prostitution and polygamy. Ms. Nahid Persson said that upon her return to Iran after 17 years of self-imposed exile, she was shocked by the degree to which the country was mired in poverty and hopelessness. “I knew I could not bring about social change all by myself. My goal was to shed light on some of the taboos in Iranian society with the help of my camera,” she added. She recounted the story of two drug-addict prostitutes who resorted to selling their bodies to support their drug habit. “Drug addiction is the major culprit in creating this social pathology,” she said. She argued that by being permissive about drug use, the regime deliberately permeates a sense of passivity and paralysis among the Iranian youth.
Panelists on Newstalk talked about reasons behind the missile defense shield being installed in Europe. There was a consensus that the threat coming from Iran could not be ignored. Furthermore, panelist Cyrus Amouzegar argued that with Moscow supplying the nuclear fuel for the Bushehr nuclear power plant there was no excuse for the Islamic Republic of Iran to continue its enrichment in defiance of the international community. Panelist Parviz Dastmalchi claimed that in pursuit of acquiring nuclear technology Iran turns a blind eye toward his brethren Muslim Chechens.
News and Views April 8 reported that Radical Iraqi Shi'ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr had called off a planned protest in Baghdad marking the fifth anniversary of the fall of Baghdad to U.S. forces. Sadr aides also claimed that Iraqi security forces were blocking Sadr supporters from reaching the capital. There was no immediate confirmation of the claim. News and Views further reported that Iraqi government forces and U.S. troops continue to battle Shi'ite militias in the Sadr City district of Baghdad.
News and Views April 7 reported on a call by British Prime Minister Gordon Brown for dialogue between supporters of the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities. He repeated his calls for restraint and reconciliation in a joint press conference with recently-elected Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, who was on an official visit to London. He said the Dalai Lama himself did not want a boycott of the Olympics. “The Dalai Lama has made it clear that he does not wish there to be an independent Tibet, he is prepared to accept that it is part of China and that he renounces violence, as well as of course, he has said that he doesn't want a boycott of the Olympics,” the British leader told the news conference.
News and Views April 7 covered a New America Foundation event with Ali Ansari, professor of Middle Eastern Studies at St. Andrews College in Scotland on the results of last month's parliamentary elections in Iran. According to Prof. Ansari, the new Iranian Parliament sees eye-to-eye with the supreme religious leader on most issues. The final outcome of the parliamentary elections in Iran shows that the leader has obtained the maximum amount of authority and power. He added the turn-out was particularly low in the elections.
News and Views April 6 featured an interview with high-profile Tehran lawyer Mohammad Seifzadeh on the announcement by Iran’s judiciary chief to improve prison conditions throughout the country and enhance public trust of the judiciary. In evaluating the track record of the judiciary in Iran, Mr. Seifzadeh argued that ever since the clerics began interfering in the judiciary, the whole system of justice has been undermined and compromised.
News and Views April 9 interviewed Steven Kull, director of Program on International Policy Attitudes. His organization recently conducted a public opinion survey whose key finding was that about half of the Iranian public favors direct talks between Tehran and Washington to resolve all outstanding issues between the two countries. The other key finding was that seven out of 10 Iranians have negative perceptions of the United States. The survey also found that the Iranian public wants the two sides to put peace and stability in Iraq as an agenda item in their negotiations. “In this survey close to half of the population expresses support for direct talks between the United States and Iran while in the survey we had last year two-thirds of Iranians favored this policy,” he said. The public opinion survey was conducted by using all of the internationally accepted standards.
News and Views’ London correspondent covered the ceremony of the British Press Awards during which Emad Baghi was given the International Journalist of the Year Award. Since Baghi has been banned to leave the country, Mr. Drewery Dyke, who covers Iran for Amnesty International, took part on his behalf, reading his statement and receiving the prize. Mr. Baghi had been imprisoned for three years (2000-02) for his anti-death penalty articles and his advocacy on behalf of Iran’s political prisoners.
Today’s Woman April 8 focused on Iran’s universities and colleges and discrimination suffered by women in these institutions of higher learning. Panelists referred to a statement signed by 700 students demanding that gender constraints be repealed. Also discussed was the question of how Iranian people are supposed to have any influence over their government if the Islamic regime is only accountable to God. Another point of discussion was an announcement by the Iranian police chief that 22 percent of automobile accidents that occurred during the Persian New Year period resulted from drivers under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The last segment looked at issues relating to obesity, recognizing that there has been an increase of obese children in Iran. The medical expert in the panel noted that obesity could lead to diabetes, migraine headaches, and low self-confidence. A major attribute to obesity is the deterioration in the quality of food.
News and Views April 8 talked to Ali Rahimi, a human rights activist in Tehran. Mr. Rahimi said the imprisonment of many political prisoners has receded from memory and these prisoners are not receiving the kind of attention that they deserve from the Iranian public.
Today’s Woman April 9 reviewed the book Why Women Should Rule the World by former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers. The book is a call to action challenging us to imagine a not-too-distant future in which increasing numbers of women reach the top ranks of politics, business, science, and academia. The book assesses the crucial but long-ignored strengths that female leaders bring to the table. “Women tend to be better communicators, better listeners, better at forming consensus,” Myers argues. In a highly competitive and increasingly fractious world women possess the kind of critical problem-solving skills that are urgently needed to break down barriers, build understanding, and create the best conditions for peace. The panel also discussed the breaking news of Khadijeh Moghaddam’s arrest. She is a women’s rights activist and member of the One Million Signature campaign. Another segment discussed the recent women’s empowerment conference that took place at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. The forum centered on the Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights Development and Peace.
News and Views April 9 reported that the Jewish Anti-Defamation League has criticized Switzerland for its natural gas deal with Iran saying that the country is now a supporter of terrorism. The League says Iran can re-invest the deal's revenues in accelerating and completing its nuclear program and providing Hezbollah of Lebanon and Palestinian Hamas with more missiles. The Swiss Foreign Ministry claims the government of that country is not involved in the deal and it is in compliance with all UN Security Council resolutions and does not violate them.
Newstalk April 8 featured a panel discussion on Iran’s nuclear program and its interference in Iraq’s internal affairs. Deputy Editor-in-chief of Kayhan of London Mr. Nasser Mohammadi said that the Iranian nuclear program is not indigenous contrary to claims made by Iran’s clerical rulers. “We know that the Koreans, Russians and Chinese are involved.” According to Mr. Mohammadi, Iran’s role in Iraq cannot be decoupled from its defiance of the international community over its nuclear program. “The Islamic Republic of Iran says that the U.S. and allied forces must leave Iraq, however, the IRI continues to pursue policies that will create the need for U.S. troops stay in Iraq,” he added.
News and Views coverage of Ibrahim Yazdi’s speech at the Middle East Institute was reported by Tabnak, a website close to the Iranian government. Mr. Yazdi, who is the general secretary of the Iran Freedom Movement and a prominent figure in the early days of the Islamic revolution, spoke at the Middle East Institute. The website reported that: “After Mr. Yazidi declined to be interviewed by Voice of America, he came under attack by Voice of America/PNN. After a reporter from VOA, which is run thanks to a budget allocated for ‘regime change’ in Iran, approached Mr. Yazdi for an interview, he said: ‘I will not talk to you because your organization disseminates propaganda against Islam, and therefore, I cannot do an interview with you. My political group has barred me to do so.’"
Roundtable with You April 8 interviewed Ali Dizaei who was recently promoted to the rank of commander in the London police force. He heads the police force in West and North London, which includes 12 major districts such as Kensington and Chelsea. He is one of the most senior Muslim officers in the force, and the only Iranian who has ever achieved this level of success in Britain. His promotion was delayed for three years because of a book he wrote alleging racism in the force and difficulties facing immigrants in Britain in making career advancements in public life, especially in a society that is as traditional as Great Britain. He used this example to inspire the younger generation, and to emphasis that if you define your goal, and work hard for it, then these obstacles could be surmountable. He also talked about the challenges of fighting terrorism in the post 9/11 era, and the unfortunate stereotyping endured by the Muslim community in Britain.
Today’s Woman April 11 featured several segments including one devoted to the latest news on human rights. The nomination of Afghan woman activist Sima Samar, as UN Commissioner on Human Rights, was discussed. Another point of discussion was four Iranian student activists still kept in prison. Human Rights Watch has called for their immediate release. The second part of the show focused on child labor and street children issues both in Iran and in the world. Facts and figures on the issue of child labor worldwide were reviewed. The panelists looked into the increasing number of street children in Iran, which also includes Afghan refugee children. UNICEF has criticized the Iranian government for not providing shelter and protection to street children. Many street children are denied their most basic rights if they end up living on the street. Additionally, children are greatly exposed to the danger of drug abuse in these circumstances. The issues of child labor and run-away children are inextricably linked to poverty in developing countries. Most children workers earn a living for their families and instead they lose their rights to education and healthy life, the panelists argued.
Today’s Woman April 10 talked on the phone to the husband of women’s rights activist Khadijeh Moghadam who was taken into custody by Iranian authorities for being an organizer of the One Million Signatures Campaign. The next segment focused on the Vital Voices’ 2008 Global Leadership Awards that were held last week with keynote speaker First Lady Laura Bush and Senator Hillary Clinton. The recipients were honored as courageous global women leaders who have expanded democratic opportunities at the grassroots level, promoted legal reforms and human rights, triumphed over tragedy and barbaric social practices against women, and symbolized the progress that societies can achieve when women’s vital voices are allowed to be heard. The panel highlighted the recipients from this year’s award ceremony that took place last week. Mariane Pearl from France was awarded because she is one of the most powerful voices for peace and reconciliation. Marion is a journalist and her husband who is also a journalist, was killed by a terrorist while covering an event. Her life was captured in the film “A Mighty Heart” in which Angelina Jolie played Ms. Pearl. Another recipient was Sheikha Lubna al-Qasimi, the first woman to hold a cabinet position in the history of the United Arab Emirates and the first female finance minister in the history of the Middle East.
Roundtable with You April 13 hosted famous fashion designer of menswear Bijan who was in Washington to attend a fundraising dinner for the Children of Iran Foundation. He said that with his help close to $1.5 million were raised to help Iranian children receive medical treatment that is not available inside Iran. “Although I’m very close to the Bush family and have designed clothes and fragrances for them, I don’t blindly follow candidates because they are my clients,” he added. He said his new international clients include Russian president Putin and French president Nicholas Sarkozy. “Prior to 9/11, my prominent international clients would come to my boutique in Beverly Hills, but now because of security considerations I go and visit them in their countries,” he said. He insists on letting his clients know of his Iranian heritage and that he is proud of being of Iranian origin.
This week’s “On the Record” – Persian News Network’s once-a-week program featuring executive editor Kambiz Mahmoudi as ombudsman – focused on the issue of whether it’s in keeping with VOA’s policy to allow program guests to appear with flags of any kind. The controversy was touched off by a Roundtable guest who insisted on appearing on the show with an Iranian flag that is no longer the official flag of the country. Dr. Mahmoudi noted that, regardless of personal feelings in this regard, PNN staffers need to realize that at present the flag of the Islamic Republic of Iran is the only acceptable flag, which does not display the lion and sun. He added that Voice of America’s policy does not allow for guests to display flags of any kind during an interview. He dismissed claims made by some Los-Angeles television satellite channels that the host of that program favored the Islamic Republic of Iran flag. VOA/PNN is not representing any political group and it never engages in any political activities sponsored by opposition groups. The current Iranian flag is displayed at the United Nations Headquarters and PNN employees have to adhere to the VOA Charter and the Journalistic Code. As journalists, they have to put aside their personal preferences.
Translated History Channel programs airing this week include an exploration of one of the world's greatest technological achievements – the harnessing of power from Niagara Falls; unforgettable film footage and expert accounts revealing the facts of astronomy's most mind-boggling discoveries; the story of medical imaging – technology that allows us to see inside the human body; the incredible story of how Gutzon Borglum created Mount Rushmore, the world's largest sculpture; and a profile of Art Linkletter, whose television programs "House Party" and "People are Funny" remain two of the longest-running shows in broadcasting history, and whose book “Kids Say the Darndest Things” is one of the top-selling non-fiction titles of all time.
PNN’s question of the week was,” Ayatollah Khamenei has called the new Persian year the Year of Progress and Innovation. Is Iran moving in the direction which could indicate progress and betterment of its economic status?” Total votes: 9437; No: 88%; Yes: 10%; Don’t Know: 2%
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.
PNN INSIDER – VIEWER PERSPECTIVES