Washington, D.C., September 26, 2007 - Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad yesterday invited Voice of America (VOA) reporter Nazzy Beglari-Scarlet to visit Iran.
The invitation, made during a conversation between the reporter and the president following his speech to the United Nations General Assembly, came one week after another U.S.-funded broadcast reporter, Radio Farda's Parnaz Azima, was released from a six-month detention in Iran.
VOA's Nazzy Beglari-Scarlet officially accepted the Iranian president's invitation while appearing on the News and Views television program broadcast to Iran on VOA's Persian News Network.
During the press conference with Mr. Ahmadinejad, Ms. Beglari-Scarlet raised a question about the safety of U.S. scholars and students traveling to Iran. On Monday Mr. Ahmadinejad had invited the faculty and students at Columbia University to visit Iran. He assured her that "annually thousands of academics from different countries, including the United States, visit Iran" while "there may be one person who for other reasons is invited by the police to have a conversation. That doesn't mean that academics in Iranian universities are always having problems."
A member of the president's entourage from Iran, who identified himself as Mr. Jalili, told VOA that Mr. Ahmadinejad watches VOA's News and Views program.
Ms. Beglari-Scarlet also questioned Mr. Ahmadinejad during the press conference about his statement at Columbia University that there are no homosexuals in Iran. Mr. Ahmadinejad replied, "As for homosexuality, I don't know where it is. Give me an address so that we are also aware of what happens in Iran."
Voice of America's Persian broadcasts reach millions of Iranians daily. One in four adult Iranians either listens to or watches a VOA program at least once a week. Starting this Thursday with the launch of the new program Today's Woman, VOA will increase its Persian television broadcasting time to seven hours daily.
The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts more than 1,000 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 115 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages.
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