As Iran chose a new leader in elections on June 18, the Persian language newsrooms of the U.S. Agency for Global Media combined to provide unparalleled coverage on television, radio, and the internet.
Both Voice of America (VOA) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) provided their audiences in Iran, the region, and the Iranian diaspora with objective, comprehensive, and nuanced reporting on the presidential elections in Iran.
Round-the-clock coverage also came from VOA 365, the 24/7 Persian-language global network produced by VOA in collaboration with RFE/RL.
Throughout the week of coverage, VOA Persian television and web election programming included perspectives from 65 high-profile experts with a wide variety of viewpoints, including how Iran’s new government will shape foreign policy and economy and treat religious and ethnic minorities.
VOA Persian offered TV and digital coverage from Washington, totaling 13 additional hours of special, election-related programming in advance of the vote. It included perspectives from 65 high-profile experts with a wide variety of viewpoints on the election, including how Iran’s new government will shape foreign policy and economy and treat its religious and ethnic minorities.
VOA special programs airing on VOA365 and on digital media looked at gender and minority limitations in participation in Iran’s elections, the implications of having a cleric elected as Iran’s president, and the lack of adherence to Covid 19 health protocols in Iran’s campaigns.
On Election Day itself, VOA365 aired an extended two-hour “Breakfast With News” program from RFE/RL’s Radio Farda, offering dozens of exclusive audience video reports from cities across Iran, including Tehran (1, 2, 3, 4), Mashhad (1, 2, 3), Urmia, Zanjan, Tabriz, Sarakhs, Shahriar, Zahedan, Babolsar, Khuzestan, Zarrin Shahr (Isfahan), Firouz Abad, Qom, Neyshabur, Qaleh Hasan Khan, Kermanshah, and Sanandaj, showing empty polling stations and suggesting a very low turnout – debunking government claims of mass participation. Exclusive reporting from inside Iran highlighted high levels of public despair, frustration, and indifference toward any of the main political blocs competing for powers in the country – “reformists” and conservatives alike.
As part of its contribution to VOA365’s coverage of the election, Radio Farda also produced a six-part series of short documentaries, “Broken Promises,” that used Farda’s extensive network of sources within Iran to spotlight the unfulfilled economic pledges made by outgoing President Hassan Rohani to his fellow Iranians, who are worse off now than they were before Rohani took office in 2013. Among the issues, the series focused on where the lack of economic growth, persistently high inflation, high levels of poverty and unemployment, and growing social inequality.
When the results of the vote were announced at 3:27 a.m. Washington time on June 19, VOA365 was ready. VOA Persian produced a live half-hour analytical “instant special” at 3:30 a.m. Washington time with reaction and analysis. Its analytical coverage continued through the day gathering reactions from around the world, as VOA fact-checked Raisi’s domestic and foreign affairs claims and whether he can be prosecuted for his role in the mass killings of Iranian political prisoners in the 1980s.
VOA coverage included perspectives from reporters and contributors in Tehran, London, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Prague, Toronto, and Iraq as well as live correspondent reports on protests at polling stations in Irvine and Los Angeles, California, and in Washington, D.C. Using more than 30 user-generated video reports, VOA documented the low turnout from polling stations in Tehran, Shiraz, Gilan, Navahand, and Mashhad in Iran. VOA also reported on protest rallies by Iranians in the United Kingdom, Greece, Cyprus, Switzerland, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands.
“We will continue modeling a free press for our Iranian audience, maintaining the free flow of information suppressed by Iran’s authoritarian regime,” Acting VOA Director Yolanda Lόpez said.
Alongside its contributions to VOA365, Radio Farda also broke into its regular news-and-entertainment programming to provide 24/7 coverage of the elections on the four days before and after the vote (June 17-20) across all of its platforms – radio, several social media channels, and a special election portal on its website radiofarda.com.
Said RFE/RL President Jamie Fly, “Farda’s ability to share reports with its audience about this election from inside Iran despite brutal pressure from the regime speaks to the vital role RFE/RL plays in Iran. Farda helps connect Iranians with each other and engages Iranians across multiple platforms to expose Iranian government disinformation.”
Beyond broadcasts, both RFE/RL and VOA were active online and on social media, to great impact. Election-related content on the RFE/RL Instagram channel alone, much of it user-generated, earned more than 10.3 million video views, while a live blog hosted on its website with up-to-the-minute election coverage has been viewed more than 160,000 times. A single VOA Instagram video alone generated more than 675,000 views. The VOA Persian Service generated 1.8 million engagement actions and 14.7 million video views across its social platforms, measured over the three days surrounding the election (June 18 to June 21).