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Iran's Fars News Endorses 'Liberty & Listeners'?!

Zarif Nazar, Host of "Liberty and Listeners"
Zarif Nazar, Host of "Liberty and Listeners"
Decidedly mixed signals coming out of Iran these days.

In a surprising plug, Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency recently endorsed RFE/RL’s own “Liberty & Listeners” program in Afghanistan.

Published almost concurrently with the reported DOS attack on Radio Farda’s answering machines, the article commends Radio Azadi’s popular program as a unique and helpful venue through which the Afghan people can connect to their government.

In the relatively glowing report (available here in Farsi), Fars praises “Liberty & Listeners” for the role it has played in “bridging the strongly-felt gap between the Afghan people and government.” This marks a surprising break in sentiment for an organization known for its often one-sided articles expounding its government’s anti-western stance. Further, the fact that Azadi’s Iranian counterpart, Radio Farda, is officially banned in the theocratic nation (and subject to consistent jamming efforts by its government) adds to the quizzical nature of the plug.

For his part, Zarif Nazar – host of “Liberty & Listeners” – is bemused by (and only a little suspicious of) the article’s positive tone. Although the piece’s first sentence scolds Nazar for having a somewhat dictatorial bent, it is the only critical line in an otherwise laudatory several paragraphs.

“I’m certainly confused,” laughs Nazar. “But you have to remember that there is a lot of movement within Iran, and in Iranian media. Although there is government control, there are also those that want to do good journalism. They have provided here a strong analysis of my show.”

Nazar attributes some of the positive feedback to the possibility of his airing of emails from Iranian citizens. “I occasionally air questions or comments from Iranians if they are relevant to Afghanistan, and these are often critical. I think perhaps they recognize that I am fair in this regard.”

Nevertheless, Nazar is wary of all the attention. “It’s a little disconcerting!” he says. “Still, I think it is a positive development overall.”