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The Iran Lobby's War on Voice of America

4:05 PM, Nov 19, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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A series of internal emails and documents from the National Iranian American Council, headed by Iranian national Trita Parsi, released as part of the discovery process in a lawsuit initiated by NIAC, reveal a major effort by the group to "clean house" at VOA's Persian-language service of Voice of America. Emails show NIAC using its muscle on Capitol Hill, aggressively lobbying individual members of Congress, to impose greater oversight over the radio station including "an independent review of the organization" to address what NIAC considered "poor journalism" and declining credibility.

But the group's emails show that NIAC was far less concerned about VOA's impact on Iran than about its impact on NIAC. The leadership at NIAC perceived VOA's reporting as a threat to its own credibility, and they were determined to prevent their critics from having a voice on the station. NIAC officials used two strategies. First, they sent cease and desist letters to VOA threatening legal action if the network continued "airing the views of a fabulist with malicious intent." The alleged fabulist was Hassan Daeoleslam, the man whom NIAC has since sued for defamation (the case is still pending) leading to the release of these internal documents.

On February 3, 2009, Siamak Namazi, a close confidant of Parsi, wrote to Jeffrey Trimble, a member of the Broadcasting Board of Governors that oversees the operations of VOA and Radio Farda:

Dear Mr. Trimble,

Once again VOA has chosen to bring Mr. Hassan Daeoleslam at its guest and once again he makes a slanderous claim that my father and my business associate - Mssrs Baquer Namazi and Bijan Khajehpour - are fronts for the Iranian government.

I have brought the matter to your attention in the past, stressing that such comments not only hard [sic] the reputation of respectable democrats, but also put them in direct danger in Iran. I told you in detail how after Daeoleslam's fictitious claims against me I was subjected to problems in Iran and also how it harmed my reputation in the Iranian community. We spoke at length about this issue when we met in August 2007 and you promised to look into it.

I am once again asking the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) to make it known to VOA, which falls under your umbrella of responsibility, that it cannot just air slanderous garbage at will. You have been served several notices about the harm that such acts have brought in the past and is likely to bring in the future. BBG and VOA will be held responsible if any harm comes to my family and I due to such irresponsible behavior. I once again urge you to pay greater attention to the programming at VOA and to cease and desist from airing the views of a fabulist with malicious intent.

Here is a link to the VOA program in question: http://www.voanews.com/wm/voa/nenaf/pers/pers1730vSAT.asx

I expect immediate action to rectify this situation, specifically by barring VOA from bringing Mr. Daeoleslam on air. Consider this a formal complaint which can be used as evidence of serving notice of harm in a court of law. While my family and I do not desire to make a legal issue out of this matter, we reserve all right if you fail to take adequate measures and continue to allow Mr. Daeoleslam to air his malicious commentary.

Sincerely,

Siamak Namazi

So NIAC wanted one of its critics barred from ever appearing on the government funded network. The left often gripes about imagined efforts by the "Israel Lobby" to silence its critics. Here we have the Iran Lobby literally threatening media outlets with legal action if they continue to give voice to a NIAC critic.

Likewise, NIAC sent two cease and desist letters to the Washington Times threatening legal action if the paper published Eli Lake's story that first reported these internal emails and which raised serious questions about the legality of NIAC's activities, specifically its claims that it is not engaged in lobbying and therefore does not need to register as a 501(c)4 rather than its current tax-exempt 501(c)3 status.

Of course, 501(c)3 groups are supposed to engage in education. Was it education or lobbying when NIAC engaged in efforts to bring the hammer down on VOA with the help of members of Congress who were well disposed to their cause?