Nov 15, 2006 5:56 am


Last week at an international conference in India, I ran into Ali, an Iranian reporter who did not waste a minute before he told me of his opposition to “the new president.” Ali wrath focused on his growing inability to do his job properly. Under Khatami, he explained, a reporter could take calculated risks. If he miscalculated he would end up in the interrogation room (as happened to Ali more than once) or even in prison. No longer. Still, he could get stuff published. No more.

Using the lessons learned from the regime’s successful taming of the electoral system, “The new president” began by eliminating stories (just as the Mullahs eliminate candidates). Editors and reporters are furnished with a daily list of topics on which they may not report. You mean issues related to national security? I asked. No, he retorted. The topics include economic and social issues. For example? “I cannot write about the economic consequences UN sanctions may have for Iran or about the social problems related to the trafficking of Iranian women to Dubai.”

Recently, matters got even worse. We may only write stories based on information we found in an approved list of 10 sources (like an approved list of candidates). Anything not found in those pre-selected sources cannot be published. In other words, the regime vets sources just like it vets candidates.

But Ali wanted to make sure that I report on the one ray of sunshine which successfully penetrates the Iranian night, it is called VOA. He would not let an opportunity go by without commenting on its importance. The regime constantly closes websites and successfully blocks outside voices including that of the BBC. But Ali stated triumphantly, they are unable to jam Voice Of America satellite transmission. It’s TV broadcasts last 4 hours a day and include music the young like. It also has news and information not available in the 10 approved sources. That does not mean that everybody is always happy with the content broadcast on AOL as is evident from the angry letter (posted bellow) an Iranian reader wanted me to send news organizations protesting CBS producer. Siamak Zand, “soft” treatment of Iran.

Iranians, he says, used to resent the US for overthrowing Mossadegh. but no longer. Now, the regime’s hostility to the US is giving Iranians a negative reason to like the US while contact with the Iranian – American diaspora and, most importantly, the American support for pro-democracy movement in Iran give Iranians positive reasons to do so. Indeed, Iranians are annoyed with the Europeans who wishing to profit from Iranian trade, are ignoring the regimes’ abysmal human rights record.

Nor have Iranians forgotten the Palestinian (including Hamas) support of Saddam during the Iran-Iraq war and they resent the money being spent on it. After all, the Iranian economy is terrible and the unemployment level of educated youth is over 50%. What do you think about the Iranian army? I asked. It is no different from that of Saddam and its missiles are so inaccurate that Iranians joke that an attempt to blow up Tel Aviv will end up flattening Mecca.

In other words, while we with much justice chastise our leader for jobs badly done and while our intellectuals elites tells us that losing is good for us, Iranians, like other captive peoples look to America with hope.

A reader's letter:

In reference to Mr Siamak Zand’s interview with Voice of America (VOA) Persian service on 22 Oct, 2006, I would like to express my strongest displeasure.

Mr Siamak Zand is one of your Tehran-stationed producers who works for both CBS News and Sky News.

During this interview your employee in Tehran outright lied before millions of people and tried his uttermost to whitewash the crimes that the Islamic Republic commits on a daily basis and which have continued since its inception 27 years ago. This comes from a journalist whose profession is to stay impartial and ONLY report the truth.

During this interview your producer in Tehran, Mr Zand, tried to downplay the significance of STONING women in Iran! Does Mr Zand value life and humanity at all? Isn’t one innocent life taken away, through stoning, ENOUGH for condemnation and outrage?

Tens of Iranians have been executed by STONING in only these past few years, with the numbers being in the hundreds since the inception of this inhumane regime, and Mr Zand has the audacity to come on an internationally viewed program and try to downplay its significance. This regime, whose atrocities Mr Zand is trying to downplay, has a penal code which on the issue of stoning states: "...the stones should not be too large so that the person dies on being hit by one or two of them; they should not be so small either that they could not be defined as stones" (Article 104, Islamic Republic’s penal code). I do not want to discuss the barbarity of this Islamic practice, but do hope that you are aware of it; there are smuggled videos from Iran of this barbaric practice which I can direct you to.

This should be an ever-lasting shame on Mr Zand’s conscious but from the emails full of profanity, which I’ve received from his CBS News email account, it seems he could care less about the people of Iran who suffer under this regime. I am ready to put those emails at your disposal if requested.
These shameful actions of Mr Zand have tarnished the impartiality of his two employers CBS News and Sky News.

The Islamic Republic’s human rights record is well documented as is its crimes against the Iranian people. Several resolutions by the UN General Assembly and the UN Human Rights Commission have condemned the Islamic Republic for restricting freedom of speech, gender equality, religious freedom, freedom of assembly and other freedoms. The universal declaration of human rights is not adhered to by the Islamic Republic. Despite this Mr Zand has the audacity to come before millions of people and say that these FACTS are blown out of proportion and stressing that journalists in Iran are free to go wherever they want without government supervision and are free to report freely!

Reporters Without Borders and many other international bodies have condemned the Islamic Republic for its permanent restriction of the press and have denounced an application of censorship found to be systematic in the country. Iran under the Islamic Republic is one of the ten most repressive countries of the world concerning freedom of the press. Hundreds of newspapers have been closed down since the coming to power of what some naïve quarters call “the reformist” Mullah Khatami (1997-2005); not knowing that those who serve this regime are none other than those whose mission is to preserve its existence by all means. Journalists detained in prison are often harassed and humiliated and as I will mention below even murdered!

It must have slipped Mr Zand’s mind that Mrs Zahra Kazemi a Canadian-Iranian journalist covering a demonstration outside the infamous Evin prison in Tehran was detained by the Islamic Republic, imprisoned, tortured, raped, and finally murdered by officials of the Islamic Republic’s own judiciary! Despite official accounts of rape and torture by a doctor who examined Mrs Kazemi's body, Mr Zand claims that Mrs Kazemi died by accidentally hitting her head in her cell! Not surprisingly this is the account of the criminals in power in Tehran!

One should tell Mr Zand that, yes people are free to do whatever they want in Iran under the Islamic Republic but it is what happens after they have exercised their freedom which matters – Mrs Kazemi serves as an excellent example. Unlike Mr Zand, the Canadian-Iranian journalist Mrs Kazemi was trying to report the TRUTH on what is happening in Iran and she paid the price for doing so. Mr Zand seems to have found himself in a much more comfortable situation where serving as the mouthpiece of the Islamic Republic is more appealing and profitable to him than reporting on the true events taking place in Iran today – especially the human rights abuses of the Islamic Republic, this is also reflected in his reporting for CBS News and Sky News.

To further attest to the impartiality and shamelessness of this producer of yours in Tehran, Mr Zand was asked about the disturbance in the Iranian province of Azerbaijan where tens of thousands of Iranian Azeri’s had taken to the streets in a grand manifestation to have their rights, which are denied, be respected. There are a plentitude of pictures and videos depicting the massive size of these demonstrations. Mr Zand replied that nothing important worthy of covering had taken place in Iranian Azerbaijan!

Dear Sir or Madam, news regarding Iran are not “blown out of proportion” as Mr Zand states but are rather not given the importance and media coverage which they deserve! The international community is not aware of the gross human rights situation in Iran. Foreign reporters allowed into Iran have official supervisors assigned to them which make sure that they report what the regime allows them to and takes them to places which will promote a positive image of the Islamic Republic. As we have seen in the past, any foreign journalist whose reports are contrary to the Islamic Republic's interests will be immediately expelled from the country. The main stream media needs to pay much more attention to the human rights situation in Iran rather than focusing on one issue – namely the Islamic Republic’s quest for nuclear weapons.

Dear Sir or Madam, I hope that you understand the feelings that myself and millions of freedom-loving Iranians go through when we see such a seemingly shameless man making these kind of statements and by doing so immensely tarnishing the impartiality and credibility of stations like CBS News and Sky News, who have chosen this individual as their producer in Tehran. I have already raised awareness of this issue and am willing to go further for this man to be removed from his position which he is currently abusing and by doing so hurting your respective news stations.

Dear Sir or Madam, if I was to state every inhumane act and crime that the Islamic Republic has committed over these past 27 years that it has held Iran hostage it would require several volumes of books. I seriously hope that your relationship with this individual, Siamak Zand, is reviewed and that he is dismissed of his position as this relationship has done nothing more than immensely tarnishing the reputation, impartiality, and credibility of your two respective stations CBS News and Sky News.

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More Comments:

Alexandra a Von Hofen - 11/16/2006

Thank you for this very informative post.

This is from

Has Iran Infiltrated the Baker "Iraq Study Group"?

It was just last month that America's civilian and military leaders in Iraq linked Iran and Syria with Al Qaida as forces trying to tear Iraq apart.

Now, there are concerns that a group of highly placed Iranian Regime lobbyist/agents, so called "Iranian experts", have peddled bad information into the Iraq Study Group hoping to shape the upcoming recommendations by that group.

A couple of names of known Iranian sympathizers who may be shaping the opinion of the Iraq Study Group are Houshang Amir Ahmadi and Hamid Dabashi...more

Arash Kamangir - 11/15/2006

Many Iranians do "look to America with hope". But I am not sure that would be a lasting relationship. They need a hand to get rid of the Mullahs, but I am afraid an American intervention will bring nothing but another Iraq.