The Iran Lobby's War on Voice of America
4:05 PM, Nov 19, 2009 • By MICHAEL GOLDFARB
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:
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?