Saturday, February 26, 2005

The "journalism" of U.S. Funded Radio Farda and the conviction of Iranian Blogger

for a long time i've been meaning to write-up a comparative analysis of Arabic language Radio Sawa and its Persian language twin Radio Farda, both of which are U.S. backed and U.S funded, and both were created as the cultural arm of U.S. expansionism in West Asia. (The Iran Democracy Act explicitly articulates this role of Radio Farda; and see this story in the Washington Post about the failures of Radio Sawa to promote "pro-American attitudes, according to a draft report prepared by the State Department's inspector general".)

anyway, this wont be the post where i'm going to extensively talk about Farda and Sawa, but i do have a few things to say about them.

The stations play both "native" and "western" (read: U.S. produced) music. And wouldnt you know it, their play list of U.S. songs are identical; they've been recycling the same handful of songs forever, every now and again throwing a current "chart topper" into the mix. In the broadcasts of the Persian station, a woman announces--in what i presume is supposed to be a seductive whisper: "radio farda"; you hear the same wanna-be sexy whisper on the Arabic station announcing the words "radio sawa". And both stations have a "question of the week" program where they ask people to call in to answer what are usually inane questions that barely mask their propagandist/provocative intentions. (somebody should tell them that inanity is not the same as subtlety!)

Anyway, i just heard radio farda announce this week's question which is something like: is the government right in trying to control weblogs?

This question, of course, is alluding to the Iranian regime's crack down on bloggers and comes on the heels of the stunning 14 year sentence that blogger Arash Cigarchi received .

Radio Farda, it would seem, is concerned to bring attention to the plight of this and other embattled bloggers in iran. it is all about the safety and protection of iranians right?

nope, not so fast.....

It was this same radio Farda who, irresponsibly and without accountability, exposed cigarchi's name in what was supposed to be an anonymous interview. Cigarachi himself accused radio farda in a letter he wrote following his summons to court. The letter is posted here and is in Persian. I will cut and paste some relevant portions here as well as a quick translation below it for non-Persian speakers.

here is the original text:

در حقیقت بخش اعظم اتهامات من ارتباط با رادیو فردا بود. جالب است که بدانی بخشی هم مربوط به سوتی هایی بود که در زمان پخش مصاحبه های من صورت می گرفت. من با اسم مستعار مصاحبه می کردم اما یکهو مصاحبه ای که با اسم آرش سیگارچی انجام شده بود پخش می شد.
باور کن هیچ امیدی به آنها نداشته ام و ندارم. هر چند که بدم نمی آید در یک رسانه فراگیرتر از روزنامه ام مثل رادیو همکاری کنم اما مطمئن باش ماندن در ایران هنوز برای من جایگاهی مهم دارد...... من انتظاری از رادیو ها ندارم اما بد نیست جنبشی شکل گیرد که آنها را با حقوق شان در قبال مایی که در ایران با هزاران خطر در گیریم ، آشنا کند.

my quick translation:

"in truth the biggest portion of the accusations against me pertained to Radio Farda. You will be interested to know that some of it had to also do with the sounds broadcast during the time of my interview. I was doing the interview with a pen name and then suddenly they would announce that were doing an interview with Arash Cigarchi. Believe me I placed no hope in them [radio farda] and I still dont...I don't expect anything from radio stations but it might not be a bad idea if a movement developed that familiarized them with their responsibilities to those of us who face a thousand dangers in Iran."

It seems that in their haste to bring "freedom and democracy" to Iran, Radio Farda, like their benefactors in the State Department, end up endangering and undermining the very people who are capable of bringing about real change in their own societies.