Reaching Millions of Television Viewers in Iran Each Week

Washington D.C. – January 25...PNN was live on location in and around Washington D.C. and New York City to cover the historic inauguration of the 44th U.S. President Barack Obama. Also this week, PNN was in France to cover the 2009 Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women's Freedom which was awarded to the One Million Signatures Campaign. And in cultural news, PNN reported live from the Sundance Film Festival in Utah, where award-winning filmmaker Nahid Persson Sarvestani’s documentary “The Queen and I” was featured.  


Special Inauguration Coverage January 20 – PNN delivered to its audience in Iran live inaugural coverage for four-and-a-half hours. From 11 a.m. Eastern standard time to 3:30 p.m., viewers in Iran saw live shots of all the key events of the day’s celebrations. Viewers listened live to President Barack Obama’s inaugural address with simultaneous translation. The full text of the President’s speech was uploaded to the web in English as soon as it was available and was replaced within hours with the Farsi version. Viewers saw the departure of former President George Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Viewers saw glimpses of the Congressional luncheon. Extensive use of crowd shots were interspersed throughout reports by broadcasters placed in various settings around Washington D.C.

Houman Seyson reported live from the VOA rooftop. Siamak Deghanpour was steps away from the swearing in on Capitol Hill. Guita Mirsaeedi reported from Lafayette Square amongst the parade route crowds and Behnam Nateghi reported live from New York's Times Square on the crowd reactions in the city. Video teams went out early to conduct man-on-the-street interviews among the crowds for inclusion in the show. Pre-produced packages were used throughout the show, including a profile of the artist behind the iconic Obama portrait, the Howard University inaugural band, as well as a PNN Reporters Notebook from the U.S. Presidential campaign trail. PNN used special inaugural graphics along with specially commissioned music bridges for the broadcast. This special day of programming was co-anchored by News and Views host Setareh Sieg and Roundtable with You and Newstalk host Vafa Mostaghim. Regular PNN contributor Babak Yektafar and Chicago-based professor Dr. Hamid Akbari provided expert on-set analysis. Reactions from inside Iran were provided by live phoners with Nobel Laureate Dr. Shirin Ebadi and Professor Ziba Kalam from Tehran University. PNN also reported on reactions from viewers in Iran who sent e-comments to a PNN blog and to a special page on the PNN website.  

From the vantage point of the VOA's roof top stand-up location, overlooking the U.S. Capitol, PNN's Houman Seyson reported live for Today's Woman and at the top of the Inaugural Special Coverage on the huge crowds that had gathered in the very early hours of the morning to witness the inauguration of Barak Obama. He told viewers that around two million people were expected to attend the event and yens of thousands of police and military personnel were patrolling the streets as well.  

Special Inaugural Coverage January 20 – PNN correspondent Siamak Deghanpour reported live from the U.S. Capitol building as Barack Obama took the oath of office to become the 44th president of the United States. The former state and national legislator was sworn in on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, with a crowd of up to 2 million people gathered on the National Mall and an estimated 1 billion others watching on television around the globe. Making history as the first African-American to become president, President Obama took the oath of office with his hand on a Bible used by President Abraham Lincoln, also a former senator from Illinois, at his first inauguration in 1861. A workforce that was made up largely of slaves from houses and farms in Virginia, Maryland and the capital, built the US Capitol, the cornerstone of American democracy. In his inauguration speech, President Obama called for a "new era of responsibility," and said the time has come for the United States to "renew its spirit" and reaffirm "the promise of this nation." President Obama said the challenges the United States faces "are real, they are serious and they are many. They will not be met easily or in a short span of time. But know this, America – they will be met." Pastor Rick Warren addressed the crowd before President Obama's swearing-in, calling the event a "hinge-point of history." Choirs sang. The world's finest musicians — including classical violinist Yitzak Perlman and Yo-Yo Ma, the cellist, along with soul singer Aretha Franklin — performed. High school bands paraded. Tears streamed down faces, weathered and smooth alike, here and around the globe, as the son of a white American and a black African immigrant ascended to his place in history.

President Obama in his speech stressed that he will quickly get down to work after the inaugural celebrations. Reuters quoted military officials as saying that the new president will meet with top defense officials on January 21 to discuss speeding up the drawdown of U.S. troops from Iraq, to fulfill his campaign promise for a full withdrawal within 16 months. He is expected to discuss sending more troops to Afghanistan, which he has identified as the key front in U.S. efforts against terrorism, with a Pentagon delegation led by Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Navy Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president is expected on January 21 to start promoting an $825 billion economic-stimulus plan intended to prevent further recession. Addressing people around the world, the new U.S. President promised: ''America is a friend of each nation and every man, woman and child who seeks a future of peace and dignity, and we are ready to lead once more.'' The Washington Post reported that another immediate move for the new President would be to name Northern Ireland peace negotiator George Mitchell as his Middle East envoy to deal swiftly with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After being sworn in as the 44th president of the United States, President Obama had his first luncheon hosted by the joint congressional committee at the historic Statuary Hall at the US Capitol. Approximately 200 guests including the new President, Vice President, members of their families, Supreme Court judges and cabinet designees, and members of the congressional leadership attended the luncheon. The details of the luncheon were designed to reflect the theme of the 2009 inaugural ceremonies. 

News and Views January 20 – Dr. Hamid Akbari of Northeastern Illinois University and Babak Yektafar of the Washington Prism joined in on the Inaugural commentary. Dr. Akbari spoke about the historic significance of President Obama for Muslims saying, “He is the first U.S president whose father was a Muslim. Obama is proud of his heritage…and that was why he insisted his middle name be used too.” Dr. Akbari spoke about how the election of President Obama can be traced back to the gains of the civil rights movement. “But it also shows the greatness of the American system. It's the continuation of American democracy,” he added. Dr. Akbari said, “Obama has a unique advantage compared with any other U.S president: he has an Indonesian sister, and Kenyan brothers and sisters, so he understands the world better.” Mr. Yektafar described the extraordinary amount of people who flocked to Washington DC for the event. He described President Obama as unique in his outlook because “Obama views the world as an American and at the same time as someone from outside of the United States.” Mr. Yektafar analyzed the organization of President Obama’s speech, explaining how the President spoke about past presidents and the hard times they faced. Mr. Yektafar believes that the new President will have to focus on the Islamic world and Africa.


Special Inaugural Coverage January 20 – Reporting from the rooftop of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Behnood Mokri provided live coverage of the inauguration parade. Marching bands, military cadets and high school bands from all over the United States made their way down Pennsylvania Avenue as PNN’s reporter gave background on the history of this special parade. The Presidential motorcade crawled up Pennsylvania Avenue at a snail’s pace flanked with Secret Service agents on foot. At around 4:00 pm, President Obama and the first lady exited the presidential limousine, denoted by the license plate “USA 1,” to walk down Pennsylvania Avenue. President Obama dressed in a black overcoat and maroon scarf, and the first lady, in a gold knee-length coat, matching dress and green gloves held hands and waved to the cheering crowds lining both sides of the street. PNN’s broadcaster described symbolic elements of the parade for viewers. Mr. Mokri said, “This is a historical day for Americans. There are many people around the White House and Pennsylvania Avenue here watching the Parade, this is so exciting".  Mr. Mokri commented that reporters and journalists from more than 200 countries were live on location to cover this historic day.  


Special Inaugural Coverage January 20 – PNN correspondent Guita Mirsaeedi reported live from Lafayette Park, directly north of the White House, as the enthusiasm for the 2009 presidential inauguration grew, transcending race, color, age, and social classes. PNN spoke with members of the crowd who described how they had traveled from near and far to witness the swearing in of the 44th president. Several people talked about their sense of a renewed hope for the future of the country and the world.  


Special Inaugural Coverage January 20 – PNN’s extended coverage of the Inauguration day featured live shots from Times Square in New York City. PNN’s New York correspondent Behnam Nateghi reported live that thousands of people, who had gathered in Times Square earlier that day, were gone and police had removed the barricades, allowing normal traffic to resume.  

Special Inaugural Coverage January 20 – PNN produced a special report on the iconic images of President Obama that became the official logo of Obama’s Hope campaign. Shepard Fairey, a Los Angeles-based street artist and graphic designer created the hand-stenciled mixed media collage that has been found plastered on public building throughout the United States. In an interview with the Washington Post, Mr. Fairey explained how he wanted to create a poster of the President that was not bland or forgettable. In his search for an iconic an inspirational image, he stripped down the lines on a media image of the President, added sharp and bold colors of reds and blues, and created a stencil like affect. Speaking of the image, Mr. Fairey said, “I wanted strong. I wanted wise, but not intimidating.”


Late Edition January 19 – PNN reported on the origins of inauguration parades and showed shots of a parade from the early 1900s. Christopher Otway who plans parties at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel, one of Washington’s finest, says today’s parties while much more extravagant, are still celebrating the same event. “Well Washington comes alive during the inauguration its very Americana unlike the other events this is the President being inaugurated and it’s a big celebration and it all depends on the party and how the party system changes,” he added. PNN described the 10 official inauguration parties that are taking place around Washington.  Mr. Otway commented on the intense preparation and planning that goes into hosting such an event, “Some of these parties will have thousands of attendees… and some of them will have a sit-down dinner.” PNN also spoke with Liberty Jones of Neiman Marcus about what people in Washington are wearing to the inaugural balls. Ms. Jones said that like other inaugurations, attendees take their cue from the new First Lady. “Michelle Obama wears a lot of red she knows it is very flattering to her so I think that other women have come in and said I want to look like Michelle Obama so they’ve definitely been buying a lot of red,” she added. Ms. Jones said the cost of a top end inaugural gown with all the trimmings might cost up to $15,000.  


PNN asked viewers to give their thoughts on President Obama’s Inauguration Speech:

Ali writes: “Thanks for the news coverage of this event. I am very sorry that Iran is the first country in the world where Obama’s picture was set on fire. America once again showed that it is the beating heart of real democracy in the world. I hope all dictators the world over, including Iranian leaders, open their eyes and learn from this example. I congratulate this important victory to America for passing the test with flying colors, and wish Mr. Obama much success from the bottom of my heart.

Hossein writes
: “Obama’s speech was interesting and sound. When we see these events on our TV sets, when we notice how a people look upon their leaders with such joy and pride, we become sad, and wonder if the day will ever arrive when we can be proud of our leaders. We want from Mr. Obama not to establish any relations with the Islamic republic, because any relations will help prolong the life of the regime. And considering the nature of this regime, such relations are not even possible. So, don’t waste any more time.”

Arash writes: “Finally, this great man was able to arrive with exemplary persistence and hard work to improve the living conditions of the United States of America. It appears that the presence of such a wise man as Barack Obama will pave the road for freedom and peace throughout the world. By the way, BBC will never even catch the wind of your progress.”


Late Edition January 21 – PNN's science and technology reporter discussed the digital transition of the official website for the White House. In this segment the remodeling of was discussed. PNN described new features to the website such as a weekly video address, a digital platform for viewers to comment on non-emergency legislation before it is signed by President Obama, detailed information about policies on the verge of approval, and a daily blog. The similarities and differences between the former administration and new administration's websites were talked about. A prompt transition between the two websites took place at exactly 12:01pm.


Roundtable January 21 – Reactions by Iranians to President Barack Obama’s inauguration speech were largely positive as people emphasized that they welcomed his fresh approach. Excerpts of the President’s speech that reflected on foreign policy agendas toward Iraq, Afghanistan, and nuclear proliferation were shown. Routable guests commented on President Obama’s direct message to the Muslim world.  

News and Views January 21
– In keeping with tradition, the new US President got straight to work at the Capitol, minutes after taking the oath of office in Washington, DC. At a signing ceremony witnessed by new US Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, among others, President Obama signed three documents, including a proclamation declaring a day of national renewal and reconciliation. The last three presidents have signed similar proclamations at the same time and in the same venue, the President's room of the Capitol. The other two documents Obama signed were nominations for the cabinet and sub cabinet nominations.


News and Views January 21 – PNN had exclusive coverage of the One Million Signature Campaign, a grassroots Iranian women's organization, acceptance of the prestigious 2009 Simone de Beauvoir Prize for Women's Freedom. Hamideh Aramideh, the anchor of Today's Woman was in Paris, France to cover the event. On Thursday, she hosted live from Paris and interviewed poet Simin Behbahani, a human rights activist at the forefront of One Million Signature Campaign, and Shahla Shafigh, who has also worked on the campaign. One Million Signature Campaign works against discriminatory laws in Iran, such as a man's uncontested right to divorce, polygamy, and child custody. Alex Belida, PNN's acting director, said the coverage is an example of the network's "ability to go anywhere, anytime, live, to bring our Iranian audience news and information that they deserve to see and hear." The Simone de Beauvoir Prize, founded in 2008 on the 100th anniversary of de Beauvoir's birth, is awarded annually to individuals or groups fighting for gender equality. The prize is named for the French philosopher who espoused gender equality. VOA has the largest combined radio and television audience of all international broadcasters in Iran, with one in four adult Iranians tuning into a VOA show at least once a week. PNN broadcasts seven hours of television a day, repeated for a full 24 hours.  


News and Views January 18 – The Sundance Film Festival featured the documentary "The Queen And I" in the World Documentary competition. In an interview on location in Sundance,  Iranian-Swedish director of the film Nahid Persson Sarvestani told PNN about her life as a 17 year old communist activist during the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1979. She described growing up in conditions of abject poverty and her feelings about the society around her. She told her story about how thirty years later, in an effort to answer questions that had plagued her since her adolescence, Ms. Sarvestani goes directly to the source. She took a journey to face Queen Farah Pahlavi, whom she called her enemy. The Queen offered her unfettered access to Ms. Sarvestani over the next year and a half. During this time, in which she questions Queen Farah about the many issues in Iran such as lack of freedom during the Shah's reign, Ms. Sarvestani begins to slowly question herself. Ms. Sarvestani, whose brother was executed after the revolution, stated that if she had the knowledge and experience that she has today, she would not have voted for the Islamic revolution. In her encounter with Queen Farah she discovers the queen's sorrow and the Queen’s pains. Realizing that she shares a lot of the same sentiments as the Queen, she sees how the Queen and the former communist are indeed equal.


News and Views January 21 – PNN reported that only a few short hours after President Obama was sworn into office, the U.S. embassy in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) announced it was closing its doors to the public after local authorities warned of a security threat. American diplomats in the UAE declined to specify the nature of the threat. However, Dubai’s police chief told the Associated Press that an anonymous phone call was received. A Sudanese man was arrested in relation to the call. The interrogation of the unnamed man did not reveal a plot.


News and Views January 23 –With Secretary of State Hillary Clinton by the President’s side, PNN reported that President Obama has determined that former senator George Mitchell will leave soon for the Middle East in order to assist in ensuring that the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas remains solvent. Secretary Clinton stated, “We know that anything short of relentless diplomatic efforts will fail to produce a lasting, sustainable peace in either place. That is why the President and I have decided to name a Special Envoy for Middle East Peace and a Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan.” President Obama conveyed that he is deeply concerned about the loss of both Palestinian and Israeli lives. He is also anxious about the state of humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip, as foreign journalists have recently begun reporting of the destruction from the conflict from inside Gaza. The former senator said he does not underestimate the difficulty of his mission, but is optimistic. He believes that because war and conflict are man-made, man is also capable of resolving conflict and making peace. The Israelis and the Palestinian Authority welcome the nominations of a special envoy. Saeb Erekat, aide to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas stated, "President Obama reiterated to President Abbas his commitment to pursue the peace process, so did Secretary Clinton last night, and I believe their appointment of Senator Mitchell to be the special envoy to the Middle East peace process is a significant step." Yigal Palmor, Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman said, “We think that any American involvement that will push forward peace talks will be beneficial for both Israelis and Palestinians." In other news, President Obama named former ambassador to the United Nations, Richard Holbrooke, as a special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan. He stated that the area is the "central front" of the struggle against terrorism. Both envoys admitted to the difficulty of the task ahead of them. President Obama commented, “We will seek stronger partnerships with the governments of the region, sustain cooperation with our NATO allies, deeper engagement with the Afghan and Pakistani people and a comprehensive strategy to combat terror and extremism."

News and Views January 24 – Immediately after the inauguration, President Obama started working on domestic and foreign issues. International analyst Dr. Bahman Aghaii Diba commented on the appointments of Richard Holbrook and George Mitchell as special envoys to the Middle East. When asked whether he thought an envoy to Iran might be named after the Iranian presidential election, Dr. Diba stated, “First, the U.S. does not have enough time to wait for election. Second, Iran’s president is not the decision maker, the spiritual leader is.” Dr. Diba expressed his belief that the U.S. and Iran are increasingly favoring talks between two countries. Dr. Diba is not optimistic that such talks would be successful. Diplomatic talks that take place over a long time period can yield some successes for each of the parties involved. Dr. Diba believes that each side will need to make concessions on Iran’s nuclear program.  


News and Views January 22 – PNN reported that the Senate confirmed Hillary Rodham Clinton as Secretary of State Wednesday, but held up Eric Holder's bid to become the first black U.S. attorney general and heard an apology from Treasury secretary nominee Timothy Geithner. Republicans and Democrats said Clinton's relatively swift, 94-2 confirmation was necessary so that President Obama could begin tackling the major foreign policy issues at hand, including two wars, the Middle East and the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran. The votes against Clinton came from Senator David Vitter (R-La.), who favored further restrictions on donations to the William J. Clinton Foundation, and Senator Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), who cited concern about her views in favor of abortion rights. The delay showed the willingness of Republican lawmakers to take a tough line with the new president by questioning his legislative proposals and nominees. Mrs. Clinton may confront more conflict-of-interest questions because of donations to former President Bill Clinton’s charitable foundation. President Obama's presidential rival, Senator John McCain, was among those who spoke up for Clinton. ''This nation has come together in a way that it has not for some time,'' the Arizona Republican said. Voters “want us to work together and get to work.” Clinton was sworn in as the nation's 67th Secretary of State in her office in the Russell Senate Office Building. Attending the private ceremony was her husband, former President Bill Clinton, and her Senate staff. After the vote, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee endorsed Susan Rice to become U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, a post President Obama has elevated to Cabinet level. Meanwhile, Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of slain U.S. president John F. Kennedy, has withdrawn her name from consideration for the New York Senate seat left vacant by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Kennedy issued a brief statement today saying she informed New York Governor David Paterson that she was withdrawing her name "for personal reasons." Governor Paterson will appoint Clinton's successor. He is expected to announce his decision Saturday.


News and Views January 22 – Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived at the Department of State on the first day of assuming her job. She was enthusiastically received by State Department personnel who greeted her in the mezzanine. Bill Burns, Under Secretary for Political Affairs introduced the 67th Secretary of State. Secretary Clinton told the crowd that a new era had arrived for America. She stated that President Obama's inaugural address set the tone for this and the new administration is committed to advancing America’s national security, furthering America’s interests, and respecting and exemplifying America’s values around the world. Secretary Clinton said American foreign policy revolves around three legs of a stool: defense, diplomacy, and development. She pointed out that the Department of State is responsible for two of the three legs: diplomacy and development that are essential tools in achieving the long-term objectives of the United States. Secretary Clinton acknowledged that the challenging times ahead would require 21st century tools and solutions to meet the problems and seize the opportunities. Secretary Clinton said the Obama administration is intent on delivering on the campaign promises: revival of America's leadership in the world and promotion of democracy. She stated "This is a team, and you are the members of that team....the American team.” In closing, Secretary Clinton added the new administration would no longer tolerate divisiveness.

News and Views January 22 – Dennis Blair, the retired admiral who is President Obama's choice as the nation's top intelligence official, pledged in his testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee that he would require counterterrorism programs to operate "in a manner consistent with our nation's values, consistent with our Constitution and consistent with the rule of law." Mr. Blair appeared to be drawing a sharp contrast with Bush administration policies. He indirectly criticized the eavesdropping without warrants by the National Security Agency and harsh interrogation methods used by the Central Intelligence Agency during the Bush presidency. "The intelligence agencies of the United States must respect the privacy and civil liberties of the American people, and they must adhere to the rule of law," Blair said in his confirmation hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee. Meanwhile, Timothy Geithner, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Treasury secretary, pledged an expanded and prolonged government role in everything from stabilizing banks to ensuring credit for small businesses. Mr. Geithner said in his confirmation hearing that a strong dollar is in the United States' interest and that President Obama believes China is manipulating its currency.  


News and Views January 21 – A PNN report on the international community’s expectations of the new president continues to mount. The country of Afghanistan voiced their hopes that President Obama will do more to focus on terrorism as well as the economic needs of their nation. Afghan Foreign Ministry spokesman Sultan Ahmad conveyed, “We hope that the new U.S. administration and Barack Obama will focus more on the war against terror and eliminating the terrorist's sanctuaries, which are outside Afghanistan.” Still, some Afghan citizens see the continued U.S. presence in the country as a cause of more civilian casualties. These citizens do not think the U.S. presence will result in the betterment of Afghan life. The Georgian government believes their common value system will yield continued strategic partnerships between the U.S. and Georgia. Griogol Vashadze, the Foreign Minister of Georgia, stated"...The strategic partnership between Georgia and the United States is a constant which will stay there forever." In other news, the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected soon. The Department of State is preparing to receive its new boss on Wednesday.


48 Hours January 24 – PNN was joined by Shahin Fatemi, a professor and the president of the European Center for Advanced International Studies.  48 Hours explored the lessons of President Obama's victory. Dr. Fatemi spoke about realistically transferable insights from the election and how they can be applied to countries that wish to become democracies. Dr. Fatemi contended that Iran's democratic forces must eschew the use of violence as a way to dislodge the regime and come to power.  "There is no place for terror, violence and vengefulness.  Non-violence is not only the means but also the end.  Once you disavow violence as a tool then you disarm the regime and its coercive tactics," he said. In another part of the interview, Dr. Fatemi said that President Obama's ascendancy is the direct result Gandhi’s and Martin Luther King's campaigns of nonviolence.  "Transition to a democratic form of government can only be achieved through non-violence," he added. He spoke about how the use of violence de-legitimizes power saying, "A government that resorts to violence to repress its citizens has lost its legitimacy to govern," he said. Dr. Fatemi added, "Through bitter experience our people have learnt that if you lie in order to come to power, then you continue your deceptive ways to stay in power," he said. In closing Dr. Fatemi remarked, "The peaceful transition of power from former president Bush to President Obama should set an example for all who are committed to democratic forms of government."


Roundtable January 22 – On President Obama’s first day in office, the new President took swift action to begin a process promised during his campaign by signing an order to shut down the prison in Guantanamo Bay in one year. He also declared an official end to harsh interrogation tactics and elected to review all detention policies of the United States, including those practiced by the CIA. The 245 terrorism suspects housed at the United States military base in Cuba will have their status immediately reviewed to determine if they should be transferred, released or prosecuted. A special White House panel will