Voice of America (VOA), a U.S government-funded public broadcaster, has expunged a video from its website after the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) announced on April 21 that it had "initiated legal efforts" after VOA "falsely defamed" the group as "lobbyists for the Islamic Republic."
VOA, which "reflects the views of the U.S. government," told FWI that it is reviewing an episode involving NIAC that originally aired on April 6. The broadcast "was removed from circulation on April 11 for further editorial review, following VOA and industry best practices. The review is in progress. VOA will provide an update when the review is complete," wrote a VOA spokesperson to FWI.
Almost two months later, no update has yet been provided.
In the VOA Farsi (Persian) broadcast removed from its website but unearthed by FWI, an unidentified narrator states that two individuals, Trita Parsi and Siamak Namazi, had an idea that "led to the creation of the Islamic Republic's lobby in the US, otherwise known as the National Iranian-American Council."
Iranian-Canadian lawyer Kaveh Sharooz says during the now-censored broadcast, "Its role is, in lobbying for the Islamic Republic regime, first, present the regime as a normal regime, like any other country, that it really is supported by the people. Second, say there's no need for regime change, that the regime is reforming, that diplomacy is working, that anybody who talks about regime change is either a warmonger or an enemy of Iran."
NIAC's press release about its "legal efforts" against VOA focused on "slanderous false reporting," stating, "NIAC has initiated legal efforts to demand a retraction, correction, and apology from Voice of America following the recent airing of a 60-minute program by VOA Farsi that falsely defamed our grassroots U.S. civil society organization as 'lobbyists for the Islamic Republic', and also leveled these outrageously false smears against journalists and victims of the Islamic Republic."
NIAC operates a non-profit organization as well as a political organization with separate tax filing requirements. It is not a registered lobbyist for Iran. NIAC has not responded to FWI's inquiries about the broadcast.
On May 1, NIAC launched a new website, NIACTruth.org, ostensibly to combat "disinformation" about the organization.
Parsi and Siamak Namazi reportedly founded NIAC in the early 2000s. Parsi led the organization until 2018.
In 2008, NIAC's co-founder, Parsi, sued Hassan Dai, founder and director of the Iranian-American Forum, for claiming NIAC lobbied for the Islamic Republic. The lawsuit, however, was dismissed, and Dai, supported by the Middle East Forum, won.
During the lawsuit, NIAC was forced to reveal email exchanges between Parsi and Iran's then-ambassador to the United Nations, Javad Zarif, which provided further evidence of NIAC's regime ties.
The judge ruled that Parsi's public "criticisms" of the Iranian regime were "tepid," and that his work was "not inconsistent with the idea that he [Parsi] was first and foremost an advocate for the regime. ... After all, any moderately intelligent agent for the Iranian regime would not want to be seen as unremittingly pro-regime, given the regime's reputation in the United States."
Lawdan Bazargan, a critic of the Islamic Republic who founded the Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists (AAIRIA), also spoke on the broadcast that VOA has taken down.
"I feel frustrated that they removed the program," she told FWI, adding, "NIAC can quibble over the definition of lobbying, but the facts speak for themselves. Trita Parsi, who founded NIAC, was working with the leadership of the Islamic Republic. There's nothing to indicate that NIAC has departed from its roots. Voice of America Farsi should stand its ground and continue to speak the truth about Tehran's Western propaganda machine."
Susannah Johnston is the investigative reporter for Focus on Western Islamism (FWI).