Despite Threats, BBG Provides Special Programming Ahead of Iranian Election

Mideast Iran ElectionWashington, DC – As the Iranian presidential race narrows in the final days before the June 14 election, the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ multimedia networks are tracking breaking news, citizen reactions and political shifts with unbiased news and accurate information, despite increasing threats to its journalists and their families.

“Iranian citizens live in one of the most information-starved countries on the planet,” said Michael Meehan, BBG board member and chair of the Global Internet Freedom Committee. “We will do everything possible to help them get the information they so desperately need and are, frankly, being denied.”

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Radio Farda and Voice of America’s Persian Service are providing Iranians with unique, uncensored, multimedia coverage and debate of election-related issues and long-term institutional challenges. In many cases, these journalists are working at great risk to themselves and their families. Both broadcasters have reported an increase in threats and harassment of family members of journalists by Iranian authorities in an apparent effort to undermine one of the few independent news sources available to voters.

Voice of America’s Persian Service goes live with a television special Friday that includes interviews with members of Congress, reaction from voters, and segments from polling stations in London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles. A second live special airs Saturday to discuss results. In-depth candidate profiles have been airing on VOA Persian programs, and VOA’s election-coverage website is providing daily one-minute video wrap-ups. A special YouSendIt dropbox has been set up for Iranians to share video, photos and voice messages. The audience participation program Straight Talk featured a Skype interview with former Iranian President Abolhassan Bani Sadr, who took questions directly from Iran. VOA is using Twitter and Facebook to update audiences and is consolidating and curating information online from Iranian media in Tehran and the provinces.

RFE/RL’s Radio Farda is engaging with its Iranian audience over the air, by phone and online to explore the viability of the Green movement in 2013, the increasingly anti-democratic trajectory of elections in Iran, the role of women in Iranian politics, and the dilemma facing voters of whether to participate in the polls or not. RFE/RL’s comprehensive rundown of election coverage includes: “Persian Letters” blogger Golnaz Esfandiari live-blog of all three presidential debates airing on Iranian state television; Correspondent Bezhan informative “Guide To Iran’s Presidential Election” for use by all of RFE/RL’s 19 language services; and Mardo Soghom, Regional Director for Iran and Iraq, offered flash analysis on the decision of the Guardians Council to disqualify candidates.

Taken together, U.S. international media efforts reach more than 14 million people per week according to the latest audience research conducted in 2012. VOA Persian television, radio and Internet programs reach an estimated 22 percent of adults.  RFE/RL on radio and Internet reaches 4.6 percent of adults weekly.

Iran consistently ranks as one of the least free nations in the Press Freedom Index, and is considered an “Enemy of the Internet” by Reporters Without Borders.