Jeremy Berkowitz (J.D. and Institute for Communications Law Studies Certificate Candidate, May 2010, The Catholic University of America, Columbus School of Law) has recently published “Raising the Iron Curtain on Twitter: Why the United States Must Revise the Smith-Mundt Act to Improve Public Diplomacy” 18 CommLaw Conspectus 269 (2009):
Four armed men in plainclothes, claiming to be Iranian police officers, kidnapped Mansur Osanloo, a Tehran public transportation union official, on the evening of July 10, 2007. Osanloo yelled out his name and job title as the men dragged him off a public bus, and several riders soon reported the abduction to Tehran authorities and Osanloo’s wife. After word of the kidnapping spread quickly to several other union leaders, one of the union leaders anonymously called Radio Farda broadcaster Roozbeh Bolhari in the Czech Republic. Bolhari had previously worked as a journalist in Iran for 17 years, and had spent the last year and a half with Radio Farda. He phoned a few contacts, including Mrs. Osanloo, and reported the story of the abduction on-air within hours, broadcasting into Iran. Bolhari’s report of the incident was one of the first in the world, and was likely the only way that many Iranians could have learned about the event, due to the Iranian government’s media censorship. Radio Farda, based in Prague and overseen by the U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (“BBG”), has played a significant role during the past decade in providing Iranians with uncensored news. The station has also reported stories that the international news media has failed to cover. Radio Farda employs freelance reporters throughout Iran who undertake great risks to relay their stories back to Prague, which are reported through the organization’s radio continually struggles to receive adequate levels of funding, while various legislators question the operations of the station and put their own conditions and restrictions on the station’s programming.
For an informative debate on the implications of the Smith-Mundt Act and Berkowitz’s paper, check out Matt Armstrong’s Mountain Runner blog: http://mountainrunner.us/ :
See also, Matt Armstrong, Smith-Mundt Act: Facts, Myths, and Recommendations 3-page report (PDF, 202kb) a “high-level fact sheet to correct misinformation about the purpose of the Act and intentions of the 80th Congress that passed and the intentions of two Senators who, in 1972 and 1985, dramatically changed the function and perception of the Act.”