In recent days, some of the offices here at VOA headquarters received phone calls from Iranians around the US and the world.
According to those involved in handling the calls, this apparently organized campaign was aimed at getting our VOA Persian service, known as PNN or the Persian News Network, to drop any use of the current, official flag of Iran and to replace it with another, older Iranian flag, one that depicts a lion and a rising sun.
One caller, identified as a 60-year-old woman who was in Montreal, Canada, said she was protesting the use of what she called the wrong flag in all Persian broadcasts. When asked what she meant by the wrong flag, she said "the flag of the Islamic Regime." She said "VOA should display the proper flag -- of the lion and the sun."
This caller also complained that a recent guest on a Persian show had requested that this older Iranian flag be displayed and that the guest's request had been denied.
Well, we looked into this and discovered what it was all about. According to our sources, it stemmed from the appearance of a guest on a Los Angeles-based Persian satellite television station who was also a recent guest on a PNN show. While here at VOA he showed up with a couple of the old Iranian flags and asked that they be displayed behind him during his appearance. His request was turned down. During his interview with the Los Angeles station, he recounted this experience. His interviewer was the owner of the LA station who, we are told, also sells the lion and sun flag and lapel pins. The owner asked his audience to call VOA in Washington to protest.
Sorry, but use of the old flag would be a political action --- not in line with our commitment to being an accurate, objective and authoritative source of news. Would anyone seriously expect VOA to show an older flag of the United States with fewer stars or perhaps the Confederate flag? Or what about the old apartheid-era flag of South Africa? Or any number of other flags no longer recognized internationally.
This is a case where we, like other mainstream news organizations, rely on government sources to check what flags are currently in official, recognized use by other countries. You are welcome to go to the State Department’s website to see what flag it uses in connection with its background report on Iran. Trust us. It’s not the lion and sun.