lbo-talk-digest V1 #5000

/ dave / arouet at
Thu Oct 4 04:02:26 PDT 2001

Chris Doss wrote:

> The Dilip Hiro article at the Nation site suggests that the US also thought
> that the growth of fundamentalism would be useful in destabilizing the
> southern flank of the USSR.
> Yes...The Voice of America (the propaganda station par excellence) was
> broadcasting into Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, etc., trying to foster Islamic
> extremism and ultranationalism.

Speaking of the Voice of America, albeit in the present day, I've been loosely following recent stories about a "controversial" broadcast.

It seems the U.S. State Department strongly urged that the VOA should not broadcast a story that featured a rare interview with the Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban militia (excerpts of which were later made available in various other world media).

In an Associated Press article that ran September 24, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher stated that the department did not believe that interviews with the Mullah Mohammed Omar should be aired over U.S. taxpayer-backed facilities so long as Omar does not comply with U.N. Security Council resolutions. He said the State Department recognizes VOA's editorial independence, but that "the VOA works according to its charter. Its charter says that they should explain U.S. government policy and present responsible discussion about it. We don't consider Mullah Omar to be responsible discussion.'' (Omar talked about America taking Islam hostage, creating its own evil, imposing itself on the world, etc.)

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, among others, had contacted the VOA board to express concern about the planned broadcast, and the Washington Post reported that this intervention had angered VOA staff, who felt that it violated journalistic ethics.

And significantly, State Department spokesman Boucher said that the VOA was no longer planning to air Omar's words in any format, saying it was "the right decision. We think good sense prevailed.''

Wrong - two days later, the VOA head who oversees broadcasts (including those to Afghanistan in Dari, Persian and Pashto languages), defied the State Department and ran the entire program with the Omar interview in its entirety.

Accolades apparently rolled in from journalists and press agencies from far afield, and in a BBC interview the guy who made the call to violate the department's wishes was pretty nonplussed about the incident, sounding like it was all in a day's work and indicating that there was really only one choice to make.

The dischord between the gov't meddlers and the reporters in the field is interesting to ponder in light of the VOA's reputation as a propaganda arm (notwithstanding its charter which explicitly mandates "accurate, objective and comprehensive news").

As a sideline, there was a survey/study quoted that mentioned that huge numbers of Afghanis listen to the BBC (and the VOA was mentioned as well) on a daily basis for their news - something like 60 to 70 percent, odd as that my seem. It'd be interesting to get impressions from listeners outside the US - I've heard the station now and then over the years on shortwave, but I'd really like to know more about the way it's perceived abroad, especially in places like Afghanistan where it supposedly acts as something of a primary news source.

BTW, I just heard George Friedman, Stratfor honcho, being interviewed on NPR for the second time in a week, sounding very Stratfor-istically certain about this and that.


/ dave /

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