Monday, July 21, 2008

Iran in the Senate Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill

Last week, the Senate and House Appropriations Committees completed mark-up of the Fiscal Year 2009 Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations. However, as with most appropriations bills this year, it is not likely that the Foreign Operations Appropriations will be considered by the full House or Senate.

Today, the Senate Committee on Appropriations released a report of the mark-up of S.3288, the fiscal year 2009 appropriations bill for the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) on July 18, 2008. The Senate version of the bill contains $20,000,000 for democracy programs in Iran and “prohibits the use of funds under this heading for educational and cultural exchanges.” The bill also contains a provision regarding monitoring and reporting on broadcasts to the Middle East and Iran.

Below is the full text of the Iran-related provisions in the Senate report of the FY’09 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill.

(Page 51) Iran.—The Committee recommends $20,000,000 for democracy programs for Iran, and prohibits the use of funds under this heading for educational and cultural exchanges.

(Page 27) Transparency in Broadcasting.—The Committee remains concerned with the integrity of U.S. broadcasting overseas and includes a provision to ensure that the Inspector General of the Department of State and BBG continues to monitor and report on the content of broadcasts to the Middle East and Iran. BBG programs are intended to reach countries where fair and unbiased local media is limited and therefore broadcasting a variety of views are required. The Inspector General’s report (ISP–IB–08–45, May 2008) noted several ways to strengthen the transparency and accountability of broadcasts, such as adherence to a journalistic code of ethics, rigorous training programs and internal monitoring. The Committee reiterates its strong support for free and fair broadcasting, and in particular the importance of providing many points of view to maintain balanced reporting.

The Committee notes that the U.S. International Broadcasting Act of 1994, as amended, lays out strict standards and principles for U.S. international broadcasting that define its journalistic mission and responsibilities. The Committee directs the members of the BBG to rigorously oversee all broadcasting programs funded under this heading to ensure they are within authorized mandates and that limited resources are used effectively. The BBG is directed, in conjunction with the MBN, VOA, and RFE/RL, to make public English transcripts on a case by case basis if requested by the Committee. The Inspector General for the Department of State and BBG should, through its normal oversight of BBG activities, inspect random translations.

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