The Rosett Report

Voice of America? Or Voice of Venezuela and Iran?

Your tax dollars at work. Again. From Voice of America — which is supposed to represent America to the world —   we’ve just had a Sept. 5 “news” story that reads like a press release from Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Or maybe from Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Or both. Looks like they decide, VOA reports.

The headline is: “Chavez Meets with Ahmadinejad to Discuss Peaceful Nuclear Partnership.”

What’s wrong with that headline? It’s newsworthy — alarmingly so — that Iran and Venezuela are pursuing and publicly airing plans for a nuclear partnership. But who says that “peaceful” has anything to do with it? Well, Hugo Chavez said so. He said it during his visit this past weekend to Tehran, where he met with Ahmadinejad. The VOA reporter, Jessica Desvariaux, dateline Cairo, faithfully informs us in her lead paragraph that Chavez “said there is no proof that Iran is building a nuclear bomb.”

Don’t hold your breath waiting for a caveat, or a dissenting view about the many signs that Iran is obviously after the bomb. In this article, that doesn’t happen.

Instead, in the second paragraph, with the added detail that Chavez was “all smiles” and making his “seventh official visit to the Islamic Republic,” the VOA reporter repeats, word-for-word, her phrase from the first paragraph, that Chavez “said there is no proof that Iran is building is building a nuclear bomb.”

That’s followed by information that Chavez says Iran will not back down in its efforts to obtain what Chavez “says is a sovereign right of the people — to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes.”

Finally we get to a thumbnail of American policy —  by now we’re in the fifth paragraph of the article — with a single sentence mentioning President Obama’s call for Tehran to engage in nuclear talks by late September, “or face further sanctions.”  But American concerns get exactly that lone sentence. Then the VOA reporter returns to what is apparently her usually scheduled programming, which now turns to paraphrasing, with nary a caveat, the propaganda of Tehran: “Iran denies that its nuclear program is a cover for a military nuclear program and insists that it’s for energy purposes.”

There are two more paragraphs, entirely devoted to paraphrasing Ahmadinejad’s statements that the aims of Iran and Venezuela are to support revolutionary nations, form and expand anti-imperialist fronts, and help oppressed nations.

The reporter then wraps up with the information that Chavez after a second day in Tehran would continue on to Belarus, Russia, Turkmenistan and Spain. (She omits his earlier stops on this tour, in Syria, Libya and Algeria).

This is interesting material, in its way, including the mention in the fourth paragraph that Chavez said the mission of his visit was for Iran and Venezuela to create a “nuclear village.” Perhaps the Americans who would be within range of Venezuela’s piece of this village might have some thoughts about that. Perhaps the Israelis and a number of Arab states within range of the Iranian portion of this endeavor might see it as less than “peaceful.” There is actually quite a story buried in here somewhere, about transcontinental cooperation on sanctions-busting nuclear projects, involving a predatory Latin American regime, and a terrorist-sponsoring state where peaceful protesters were recently slaughtered in the streets. But this VOA article is almost entirely devoted to repeating and paraphrasing the utterances of Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

Couldn’t this brand of coverage be left to the propaganda organs of Caracas and Tehran? Why should American taxpayers fund it? And even more to the point, exactly how does it serve American interests for VOA to disseminate it?

The reporter, Desvariaux (she has an online resume here), appears relatively new to VOA. In a search of the VOA web site, I found only two articles with her byline. But the trend isn’t good. Here she is, Sept. 6, dateline Cairo, providing for Khalid Mashaal, leader of the Hamas terrorist group that controls Gaza, the same public-relations genre of coverage she provided Sept. 5 for Chavez and Ahmadinejad. If this is Voice of America, it’s time for Iran, Venezuela and Hamas to start complaining to Washington about plagiarism.