Iranians See Rare TV Footage of Abuses Inside Iran

Iranians saw riot police attack student demonstrators and heard student leaders talk of imprisonment and torture when U.S. international broadcasting’s Persian-language show, News and Views, reported on a PBS exclusive program.

News and Views, a daily, live, 30-minute Voice of America (VOA) TV show, showed footage from Forbidden Iran, a FRONTLINE/World program by freelance journalist Jane Kokan about human rights abuses in Iran.

Kokan went undercover to report on the student movement in Iran that is seeking democratic reform. The show, in English, aired in the United States on January 8.

Kokan’s reporting was spurred by the July 2003 beating death in an Iranian prison of Zahra Kazemi, a Canadian journalist who was arrested as she attempted to cover the student movement.

Following the News and Views broadcast, Setareh Derakshesh, VOA’s anchor, traveled to Denver for an in-depth interview with Kokan. That report will air in an upcoming broadcast.

News and Views, which is transmitted to millions in Iran via satellite, aired tape Kokan managed to secure as she traveled around the country, posing as an archaeologist interested in ancient Iranian ruins. Also shown were scenes of riot police attacking student demonstrators with batons, and scenes of Tehran University, which had been ransacked by Iranian vigilantes under the control of the conservative mullahs.

Kokan also interviewed student leaders who had been put in prison and tortured. One leader, Amir Fakhraver, told his mother, “I have chosen the path of my struggle … I’ve told you many times that I want you, at the moment they’re hanging me, to stand proudly and say, ‘I am proud of my son.'” The tape was recorded before Fakhraver was sent to prison for eight years.

News and Views is one of several Persian-language broadcasting products supervised by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all U.S. international non-military broadcasting. They include two other VOA-TV weekly satellite television shows (Roundtable with You and Next Chapter); VOA Persian language radio, and Radio Farda, a round-the-clock radio network that airs news and information as well as Persian and Western music.

The BBG is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported non-military international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); Radio Free Asia (RFA); Radio and TV Martí, Radio Sawa and Radio Farda. The services broadcast in 65 languages to over 100 million people around the world in 125 markets.

Nine members comprise the BBG, a presidentially appointed body. Current governors are Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Joaquin Blaya, Blanquita W. Cullum, D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, Edward E. Kaufman, Norman J. Pattiz, Veronique Rodman and Steven Simmons. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell serves as an ex officio member.

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