In a surprise reversal, the Voice of America (VOA) has reposted a lightly edited version of an episode it had previously taken down about the Islamic regime of Iran's US "lobby."
Adrian Calamel, an analyst specializing in the Middle East and Islamism in the West, praised the VOA's decision to repost the episode in an interview with FWI.
"The broadcast was reviewed, and VOA isn't caving because what's here is accurate reporting," he said. "VOA is standing behind their broadcast."
VOA pulled the original April 6 broadcast from its website on April 11 "for further editorial review." Shortly after VOA removed the broadcast, the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) announced that it had "initiated legal efforts to demand a retraction, correction, and apology from Voice of America," for the broadcast, which they claimed, "falsely defamed our grassroots U.S. civil society organization as 'lobbyists for the Islamic Republic.'"
In the original broadcast, an unidentified VOA narrator stated that Trita Parsi and Siamak Namazi authored a document, "Iranian-Americans: The Bridge Between Two Nations," which "led to the creation of the Islamic Republic's lobby in the US, otherwise known as the National Iranian-American Council." An image of Parsi and Namazi accompanied the narration.
VOA, "also leveled outrageously false smears against journalists and victims of the Islamic Republic," wrote NIAC in a press release regarding the April 6 broadcast. The NIAC press release also noted that VOA had removed the broadcast from its platforms.
In the edited, reposted episode, VOA no longer refers to NIAC as the Islamic regime's lobby. Instead, VOA removed the image of the two men and replaced it with a copy of the document authored by Parsi and Namazi with the description, "This led to the creation of the Iranian-American lobby, NIAC."
The rest of the broadcast, including commentary about NIAC from Iranian-Canadian lawyer Kaveh Sharooz, remains unchanged. During the episode, Sharooz said, "[NIAC's] 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."
"We have to maintain the ability to speak the truth about the Islamic regime's influence operations," said Lawdan Bazargan, a critic of the regime who founded the Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists. "This broadcast is a vital part of the message, and I'm glad VOA made the right call," she said speaking to FWI.
NIAC, which did not respond to FWI's request for comment, operates a non-profit organization as well as a political organization and is not registered as a lobbyist for Iran.
Susannah Johnston is the investigative reporter for Focus on Western Islamism (FWI).