NIAC Makes Progress in Defamation Case with VOA Persian
Washington DC – The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) has taken legal action against proponents of US-Iran war who have waged a defamation campaign against NIAC. As a first sign of success, Voice of America’s Persian Service agreed to halt providing these activists a platform to spread false rumors about NIAC.
In a letter dated June 19, 2007, NIAC's attorney Afshin Pishevar demanded that Voice of America, Persian Service (VOA) "cease and desist" from continuing to function as a political platform for those attacking NIAC. This was the first time NIAC resorted to legal measures to thwart the campaign to depict all opponents of war between the US and Iran as agents of the Iranian government.
The cease and desist came following a broadcast on June 7, 2007 on VOA featuring Hassan Daioleslam. Throughout the program, Daioleslam lodged malicious and baseless claims against NIAC and its efforts to prevent war.
Unlike private news outlets, the government-funded VOA is legally bound to live up to strict journalistic standards and is answerable to Congress and American tax-payers. These standards include double sourcing information and providing accurate, all encompassing coverage of a given issue. The agency's Journalistic Code requires that for all coverage, including call-in shows, "views of a single party must be challenged by the interviewer if alternative opinions are unrepresented."
In violation of VOA's publicly proclaimed standards, the VOA host did not counter the slanderous remarks made by Daioleslam against NIAC during the live TV show, nor did he press the guest for evidence to back up his claims. NIAC was not invited to appear on the program, despite the host's public statement to the contrary.
Whether this was intentional or the result of staffer's lack journalistic training, the broadcast functioned to validate and propagate Daioleslam's false information.
Earlier this year, Daioleslam published an article targeting NIAC in FrontPage Magazine, a neo-conservative outlet. In April, NIAC issued a formal response to Daioleslam's article exposing the speciousness of his claims.
VOA had scheduled another appearance with Daioleslam on July 7. In a letter dated July 5, an attorney for NIAC called the advent of such a project "clear and convincing evidence of malice and wanton disregard for the truth" and placed the agency on legal notice. The program was cancelled the next day.
There is widespread concern that VOA has as of late failed to live up to its strict journalistic standards and organizational mandate. "Certainly, VOA Persian is not giving the Iranian public a fair image of American journalism or American values," Afshin Pishevar concluded in its letter to the agency in June. "And certainly, this is not the type of journalism Congress had in mind when they allocated funds to VOA's Persian programming."
NIAC is seeking a meeting with VOA's management to put a permanent stop to its broadcasts being used for political defamation.
Founded in 2002, NIAC is a grassroots, non-partisan and non-profit organization promoting the interests of the Iranian-American community. Its members and staff are deeply committed to ensuring that war between the US and Iran is avoided and that the disputes between the two nations are resolved peacefully.