Giving A Voice to the People of Iran

Proposal to assist democratic reformers in Iran is proceeding through Congress

December 3, 2009, Washington, D.C. – In the midst of the fallout following the June 12th presidential election in Iran, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators went to work trying to devise a strategy to help the people of Iran. The result of this combined effort was the Victims of Iranian Censorship Act (VOICE).

According to Richard Fontaine, who at the time was an aide to Senator John McCain:  “We started thinking what can you do on the positive side, not to just bombard Iran with messages from America, but to facilitate the kind of remarkable political discussion the world had seen after these protests broke out. Not as a regime-change thing, but in supporting the intrinsic values the U.S. stands up for.”

Under the proposed legislation, the VOICE Act, would establish the “Iranian Electronic Education, Exchange, and Media Fund” to finance the creation of proxy Web servers and Web addresses that would fall outside the reach of Iranian government censorship. In doing so, it would allow Iranians free access to information and the ability to stay in touch with the outside world anonymously.  The legislation would also authorize funding to the Broadcasting Board of Governors to expand Farsi language broadcasting into Iran. The funds may be used to also develop additional transmission capability to counter Iranian government efforts to jam radio, satellite, and Internet-based transmissions. 

The VOICE Act was introduced by Senators Ted Kaufman (D-DE), Robert Casey (D-PA), John McCain (R-AZ), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) in July of 2009.  It was passed on July 24, 2009 as part of the larger National Defense Authorization Act of 2010. Currently, efforts are underway in both the House and Senate to reconcile the various authorization bills and appropriate the necessary money needed to fund the activities authorized in the VOICE Act.

Click here to read the text of the VOICE Act

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