Washington, DC - A joint press release issued by three major federations of NGOs representing Middle East Christian communities, Yezidi groups and Muslim American moderates accused the "pro-Iran regime lobby" of manipulating the United States bureaucracy to shut down "Radio Free Iraq," which airs to the region and is based in Prague as one of Free Europe Radio's multiple divisions. The press release urged Congress, which funds US broadcasts directly, to reverse the decision and take all appropriate measures to protect US funded broadcasts from falling into the hands of pro-Iranian or pro-Muslim Brotherhood pressure groups in Washington.
The Middle East Christian Committee (MECHRIC), a Federation of NGOs representing Assyrians, Chaldeans, Syriacs, Copts, Maronites and Melkites, the American Islamic Forum for Democracy (AIFD), and the Yezidi International Human Rights Organization all reject the decision by the US Board of Broadcast (BBG) to stop the work of Radio Free Iraq (based in Prague) and instead merge it with Radio SAWA based in Washington, DC. The undersigned federations of NGOs believe that this is a misguided and wrong decision, manipulated by pressure groups close to the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood.
1) Radio Free Iraq (RFI), as mandated by the US Congress, has been covering Iraq and the Middle East for over a decade, insuring fair reporting and insuring civil societies in the region, particularly minorities and women, are fairly covered. It is the only US funded broadcast which has been focusing on defending democracy and pluralism and giving airtime to civil society elements and minorities in the region.
2) RFI has also been covering activities by the US Congress and its various committees and subcommittees, as well as the US government in general, and broadcasting these activities to the region, particularly regarding debates and discussions taking place in Congress concerning counterterrorism and human rights in the region.
3) RFI has been at the forefront of the battle of ideas against extremism and Jihadism by making its airwaves open to the moderate voices in Iraq as well as Arab voices—from Sunni, Shia, and other communities' backgrounds. It not only reported the good news about the Arab Spring, but also warned about the rise of radical Jihadi movements and pro-Iranian radicals.
For all the above reasons, serious pressures were applied by the pro-Iran lobby in Washington and by Muslim Brotherhood sympathizers to shut down the station once and for all. These pressures manipulated the BBG, the bureaucracy that responds to Congress regarding foreign broadcasts. Multiple attempts by our NGOs to reach out to members of Congress were stymied by the pro-Iranian lobbies. As unbelievable as it may sound, and at a critical moment in history when the new Congress is backing the democracy and freedom movements in the Middle East against the Iranian regime and the Muslim Brotherhood, a program launched and funded by Congress is now in the process of being shut down by the adversaries of freedom by a decision disguised as one financial in nature.
We, the undersigned, ask Congress to stop the shutting down of Radio Free Iraq, investigate the decision by the BBG, and unveil the forces behind this penetration of the US government who seek to destroy one of the most powerful and efficient outreach broadcasts ever funded by the US Congress. We, the undersigned NGOs, are going to take this issue to the US public as part of our efforts to educate the taxpayers about the use of their tax dollars.
Mr. William Youmaran, President of Assyrian American National Federation
Mr. David William Lazar, Chairman, American Mesopotamian Organization (AMO)
Ms. Rima Tüzün, - Head of Foreign Affairs, European Syriac Union
Mr. Loay Mikhael, Head of foreign relations, Chaldean Syriac Assyrian Popular Council
Mr. Adel Guindy, President of Coptic Solidarity International
Mr. John Hajjar, Melkite Committee
Mr. Tom Harb,General Secretary MECHRIC and President of American Maronite Union
Mr. Mirza Ismail, Chairman, Yezidi Human Rights Organization International
Dr. Zuhdi Jasser, President, American Islamic Forum for Democracy