USAGM Watch Commentary

Jamshid Chalangi, one of the well-known and respected Iranian refugee journalists, has published an article strongly critical of the Voice of America (VOA) programming to Iran. He speaks fluent Arabic and has reported from the region for many years. Another journalist who had worked with him both at Radio Farda and Voice of America VOA Persian TV told us that he always had high viewership and was balanced in his analyses. Jamshid Chalangi @JChalangi has over 20.9K followers on Twitter. Another Iranian-American who works in the U.S. Congress told us that Mr. Chalangi is “very well known in the Iranian community and respected.”

Both the Voice of America and Radio Farda in Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) are overseen by the $800 million U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) which still does not have a permanent CEO (Michael Pack awaits confirmation by the U.S. Senate) while VOA is led by Director Amanda Bennett who was appointed to her position during the Obama administration. Many management and programming scandals have been reported at VOA in recent years. SEE: “Amanda Bennett Is First Voice of America Director at War with Refugees From Communism and Iran.” 

Such strong and public criticism of the Voice of America and VOA director by leaders of immigrant communities in the United States is unprecedented in VOA’s history. While VOA was occasionally criticized by some U.S. ethnic organizations for not doing enough to oppose communism during the Cold War, they never accused VOA of siding with repressive regimes and usually voiced their criticism and made programming suggestions in private communications.

We present some of the highlights of Jamshid Chalangi’s article published May 28, 2020 in American Thinker. The opinion article offers a devastating assessment of the management of the Voice of America Persian Service.

Some of his observations are similar to those made earlier by Iranian-American scholar Alireza Nader SEE: “Voice of America to Iran Has Self-Destructed;” Brian Hook, U.S. Special Representative for Iran and Senior Policy Advisor to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo SEE: “Voice of America Is Letting Down Iranian People;” the White House SEE: “WHITE HOUSE on VOICE OF AMERICA (VOA) Why are US Taxpayers Funding a ‘Voice of the Mullahs’ in Iran?;” and Iran-born journalist Mahtab Farid SEE: “Respected DC-based Iranian-born American journalist criticized Voice of America Director and VOA Persian coverage of Iran.”

JAMSHID CHALANGI: I began working at VOA in Washington, D.C. following three years on the newly established “Radio Farda” (the Persian-language “Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty”) in Prague.  I did not know that my fate as a journalist would be again decided by the people connected to the Islamic regime in Iran, as happened before at “National Iranian Television” — only this time a mile away from the White House and even less from the United States Congress.

However, with the advent of the Obama administration and the start of a policy of appeasement toward the Iranian regime, there was a general change of atmosphere at the VOA, and as such, entry into the Persian section for those with known affiliations to the Islamic republic were facilitated.  This approach was justified on the grounds that it would help attain the compromise needed with Iran to secure a nuclear agreement with the “5+1.”

These developments took a disturbing turn when the annual task of assessing News Talk and other programs of VOA Persian was assigned to Mr. Hooman Majd, an official adviser and interpreter of the Iranian president, Ahmadinejad.  The outcome of such an appointment not only resulted in major changes in the outlook of programs broadcast by VOA Persian, but also led to my eventual dismissal from that organization in March 2012.

Today, although pronouncements made by President Trump and secretary of state Mike Pompeo speak in no uncertain terms of their support for the struggle of the Iranian people, the message nonetheless coming out of VOA Persian continues to be one that still sides with “them” — namely, the mullahs in Tehran.

It is time for the VOA to close its connecting doors to the Iranian government and to reopen the doors that were shut to the Iranian people.

READ MORE: Voice of America, or Voice of the ‘Mullahs in Iran’? By  Jamshid Chalangi, American Thinker, May 28, 2020.

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