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28 May, 2020 17:45

Envoy demands VOA ramp up anti-Iran efforts to 'support' Iranians... because what they really need is more US-funded propaganda

Envoy demands VOA ramp up anti-Iran efforts to 'support' Iranians... because what they really need is more US-funded propaganda

The US government-funded Voice of America’s Persian news service must “do a better job” with its anti-Iran news coverage or it risks being shut down, US Special Representative for Iran Brian Hook has warned.

In an unintentionally irony-laden oped published by the New York Post on Wednesday, Hook wrote that VOA Persian “needs to do a better job of countering Iranian disinformation and propaganda.” This is a priority for the Trump administration which is merely trying to “support the Iranian people” with “truthful reporting.” 

Yet VOA, he raged, is “failing to represent America to Iran with fact-based content.” 

In other words, even a US-funded propaganda outlet founded in 1942 to serve the “long-range interests of the United States” is not as extreme in its anti-Iran reporting as the Trump administration would like it to be. Hook went so far as to claim Iranians have complained that the outlet operates less like the Voice of America and more like the “Voice of the mullahs.”

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Hook delivered a litany of complaints about VOA, which received $17 million in taxpayer funds last year, including that the service aired some "nature documentaries" during anti-government protests sparked last November by rising fuel prices.

Seemingly to strengthen his case, he also cited a 2013 Wall Street Journal report in which a VOA employee said the outlet would not air criticism of the Iranian government without it being “balanced with the perspective of the Islamic Republic.”

Put another way, Hook would rather VOA did not follow some of the basic tenets of journalism by offering competing perspectives in its reporting, and would prefer its journalists to simply echo the line of the Trump administration, no questions asked.

It’s unclear how this desire to ditch a fundamental principle of journalism can be squared with Hook’s other demand that VOA should avoid giving the appearance that it is producing “pro-regime change propaganda” for the US. It seems that while he would like the propaganda to be “better” and more sophisticated, he would also prefer that it did not look like propaganda.

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Hook noted that Iranians suffer from "heavily censored media” and require access to “unbiased” news. Indeed, Iran has been repeatedly criticized by press freedom organizations including Reporters Without Borders for harassment of independent media and arrests of journalists — but a US government-funded propaganda outlet advancing the maniacal and dangerous regime change goals of the Trump administration is hardly a solution.

If it won’t ramp up its anti-Iran efforts, Congress should consider "ending its funding and shutting down" VOA "as a fiduciary duty to American taxpayers," Hook concluded.

It’s not the first time the administration has taken aim at its own propaganda outfits, either. 

In April, the White House's 1600 Daily newsletter offered blistering criticism of VOA,  accusing it of having "amplified Beijing’s propaganda" after the news service dared to report on celebrations in China’s Wuhan following the lifting of the Covid-19 lockdown.

Hook demonstrated his deep and sincere concern for Iranians again on Wednesday when he warned the country that it had a choice: Either give in to Trump's demands or deal with total economic collapse. How’s that for “supporting the Iranian people?”

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