By Robert Tait, RFE/RLRadio Farda is part of a cultural invasion helping Western intelligence agencies wage a "soft war" against the Islamic republic, according to a book published by Iran's Culture and Islamic Guidance Ministry.
Radio Farda's logo
"A Survey of Radio Farda," published this spring
by the ministry's Bureau of Media Studies and Planning, brackets RFE/RL's
Persian-language outlet with Voice of America and the BBC as hostile "media
operations" working against Iran.
It also says Iranian journalists who join the station are providing "firsthand information" to Western intelligence agents.
"Undoubtedly, these employees have a lot of benefits for the intelligence bodies of the hostile countries that mastermind the media invasion," asserts the author, Massud Mohammadi, in the book's 37-page preface.
"They [the staff] know about the current situation of the country as well as the current language of its people. Also, people in Iran know them," he continues. "Therefore, they can pass on firsthand information to the intelligence services of the West, and produce programs [for the radio] that are relevant to the current discourse and concerns of Iranian society in the country."
The comments echo those frequently voiced by hard-liners loyal to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who accuse elements of the Western media of being instruments in a U.S.-backed attempt to stage a soft or "velvet" coup against the Islamic regime.
Mohammadi attempts to bolster that argument with a convoluted definition of Radio Farda's purpose -- which he characterizes as trying to drive a wedge between the Iranian government of the day and the political establishment brought to power by the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
"The most significant task of the media hostile
to the Islamic republic is creating a rift between the [Iranian] regime and its
government," he writes.
He also cites Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election, suggesting that Radio Farda and other Persian-language media based outside Iran were able to preplan and coordinate the mass demonstrations that greeted President Mahmud Ahmadinejad's victory because they knew beforehand that he would be accused of fraud.
"Months before Iran's 10th presidential elections in June 2009, the directors of such networks had planned to use this opportunity to promote the project of creating instability in the country," Mohammadi claims.
He estimates Radio Farda's financial support -- provided by the U.S. Congress -- at "tens or hundreds of millions of dollars," funding that leaves the station's broadcasts open to political interference, he believes. "It is naive to think that media such as Radio Farda, with funding of tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars, airs programs on Iran arbitrarily and with no coordination," he writes.
Radio Farda's budget for 2009 was $5.8 million, and its 2010 estimated budget is $6.43 million.
Surveying the station's output, Mohammadi says Radio Farda interviewed the Nobel Peace laureate Shirin Ebadi 118 times over an unspecified two-year period. Journalists Mashallah Shamsolvaezin and Issa Saharkhiz were interviewed 149 times and 106 times, respectively, over the same period.
In even more minute detail, he reveals that 1.4 percent of Radio Farda programs over that period dealt with the Islamic Revolution; 5.55 percent with the Islamic republic; 1.25 percent with the principle of "velayat faqih," the rule of the supreme religious jurist; and 2.56 percent with the supreme leader. Some 6.12 percent of Radio Farda programs have dealt with high-ranking officials of the Iranian regime, Mohammadi estimates.
Radio Farda broadcaster Parnaz Azima was held for eight months in Iran.
The author appears to question the status of
former Radio Farda journalist Parnaz Azima when she was prevented
from leaving Iran for
several months after officials confiscated her passport during a visit to her
ailing mother in 2007.
"In the reports of the media opposed to Iran's government -- especially Radio Farda -- Azima was mentioned as a 'Radio Farda journalist,' while she herself said that she had visited Iran for a family issue," he states.
Azima was employed by Radio Farda at the time and only left the organization long after the incident.
Quotes attributed to Khamenei on the book's cover refer to him as "imam," a distinction usually reserved for the most revered figures in Shi'a Islam and for the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, spiritual leader of the Islamic Revolution.
In 2009, Deputy Culture and Islamic Guidance Minister Mohammad Ali Ramin led calls for references to Khamenei to be prefaced by the title "imam." The suggestion came amid an upsurge of demonstrations following the death of the pro-reformist cleric, Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri.
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