I blogged twice previously on the Radio NZ staff going to radio workshops in Iran. My position was that the Iranian Government was effectively paying for the staff to take part in an event hosted by their in house propoganda arm.
Apart from the issue of accepting the money from the Iranian Government, there was the issue of having a “good” public broadcaster like Radio NZ having its reputation associated with a state controlled broadcaster that doesn’t speak truth to power but instead speaks lies on behalf of those in power.
In the comments section I said:
The way I read it the conference organisers are the IRIB, and they are the ones paying all the costs. I welcome clarification if that is not the case, but regardless think there is an issue about having a state sponsored enemy of the free press, paying for even part of the costs of RNZ staff
Russell Brown replied:
It’s not true, and you’ve rushed in with an endorsement of a “scoop” written by someone who didn’t even bother to check her “facts”.
The two RNZ staff members were sponsored by the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union. The sentence in the newsletter was hilariously wrong. End of story.
And you wonder why people say bad things about blogs.
We also had RNZ Comms say:
Two Radio New Zealand staff members have been invited to take part in an international radio festival and conference in Iran, but the invitation came not from the IRIB organisers but the Asia-Pacific Broadcasting Union, the umbrella agency for public broadcasting in our region. Our staff are not representing Radio New Zealand, but are attending on behalf of ABU, and if that organisation had not issued the invitation, they would not be attending.
All the costs of the trip will be reimbursed. No programme-making or gathering of content for air on Radio New Zealand will be done during the attendance at the event.
But nowhere in that statement did they back up the assertion by Russell on who actually is paying. I it APBU or Iran?
Well I have a copy of a statement from Radio NZ, which I believe has or will be supplied to media. In it they say:
Under a separate arrangement between the ABU and IRIB (Iran), the costs of all ABU representatives attending the event are covered by the host broadcaster.
In other words we are right – Iran is paying for two Radio NZ staff to travel to the workshop. Who ever told Russell it is not true, led him wrong.
We also have the issue where Radio NZ keeps insisting the are not representing Radio NZ, but instead the ABU. However their statement again says:
They will not be taking leave to attend
So they are being paid their normal salaries by Radio NZ while they are there, and Iran picks up the travel costs. And I have no doubt their affiliation with Radio NZ will be referenced at the workshops.
Now I have nothing against the two staffers in question. I am sure they do an excellent job. And if the ABU was holding the workshops elsewhere, there would not be an issue – even if a country with a semi-free press such as Singapore.
But Iran has pretty much no free press at all. The host broadcaster is beyond doubt an enemy of free media – their chairman accused the BBC and CNN of manfacturing tapes of the Iranian girl being killed. This is not a regime you want to accept money from, and lend credibility to.
Their global press freedom ranking is 181st= out of 195. Only 13 countries or territories rate lower.
The Chief Executive of Radio NZ has to approve the attendance under the conflicts of interest policy. Why does he not think associating with a regime which is an enemy of public broadcasters like Radio NZ, is a conflict? Just because the ABU has agreed to do workshops there does not mean Radio NZ has to agree to have its staff participate.