Thursday, June 22, 2017

Radio Liberty Persian Service: Mixed Reviews

The suggestion that Radio Farda somehow mirrors the Iranian press is ludicrous.

Nenad Pejic, then the interim head of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, in 2014.
Nenad Pejic, then the interim head of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, in 2014.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE/GETTY IMAGES
Sohrab Ahmari’s June 12 commentary “In Iran, Radio Liberty Doesn’t Live Up to Its Name” asserts that the Persian service of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty parrots the editorial line of Iranian state media.
While we will acknowledge any individual story that falls short of our editorial standards, as any news organization should, the suggestion that Radio Farda somehow mirrors the Iranian press is ludicrous.
The government and its supporters make clear their view of Farda by blocking it on the internet, jamming its radio broadcasts, threatening Farda’s staff members outside Iran and harassing their relatives inside the country. 
Meanwhile, Farda’s audience in Iran finds it such an important alternative to state media that they use circumvention software to reach Farda despite government blockages. By such techniques, Iranians view Farda’s internet site millions of times a month. They also use Farda’s social network platforms as a means to discuss events in the country free of government control.

Farda’s goal is to provide its large Iranian audience with honest journalism. The commitment of its audience and the reactions of Iranian authorities suggest Farda is doing just that.
Thomas Kent
President and CEO
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Mr. Ahmari is right on the mark. I was director of Radio Liberty when the Berlin Wall came down and the U.S.S.R. collapsed, arguably the most successful period in the radio’s history. Later I was a Republican member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (2010-12), leaving that position when it became evident to me that U.S. international broadcasting was hopelessly lost, operating without a strategy and increasingly detached—indeed, often antithetically—to U.S. interests. When I was nominated to the board, several senators asked me to undertake an investigation into the Voice of America’s Persian News Network (PNN), which was widely seen as having gone off track. I presented my findings to the first meeting of the board after my confirmation by the Senate. The PNN was a complete mess: operating without serious supervision, staffed haphazardly and perhaps penetrated at different places by Iran’s intelligence services. I recommended its complete overhaul, but little happened given that most of PNN’s employees enjoyed civil-service status. I understand that little has changed today.
It’s not just the PNN or Farda, which are the tip of the iceberg. Unless U.S. international broadcasting can be completely rethought, we are probably better off closing it down and starting over. This three-quarters of a billion dollar enterprise is vital, but now it is not serving American interests. President Trump should shake up this enterprise.
S. Enders Wimbush
Washington, Va.

No comments: