Opening Remarks – Governor Edward E. Kaufman
Hello everyone, I am Ted Kaufman. On behalf of the all my colleagues at the Broadcasting Board of Governors, I would like to welcome you to the dedication of our memorial to BBG journalists slain in the line of duty. It is a solemn occasion and a painful reminder of the dangers our reporters face to fulfill an ambitious mission. To achieve our mission, to provide accurate and balanced news and information to a worldwide audience – in their languages – we must overcome many obstacles including governments that are unfriendly or hostile toward free press.
So our thanks go to all of our broadcasters, many present here. We honor you for your own work as we remember your fallen colleagues.
Before sharing the individual stories, I would like to ask my colleague Governor Steve Simmons to give us a picture of the challenges BBG broadcasters face in gathering and broadcasting the news.
Remarks on Threats to Journalists – Governor Steven J. Simmons
Thank you Ted and my thanks as well to everyone for coming today.
In the past two years, BBG broadcasters have lost four journalists. Still more have been arrested without justification, some tortured and others detained for months. Just this month, a reporter in Turkmenistan was committed to a mental hospital for refusing to sign a pledge to stop working for RFE/RL. Doctors there – apparently as oblivious to irony as their government is to international standards for human rights – diagnosed him with “mental instability.”
Such abuses are not confined to a single region. In fact, Freedom House’s annual report on world press freedom observes, “For every step forward in press freedom last year, there were two steps back.” Sixty-six percent of the countries surveyed were rated either not free or only partially free, where press was concerned. BBG broadcasts to nine out of ten of these countries, which cover wide swaths of land – from Asia, to Africa, to Eastern Europe to the Middle East. Reporters Without Borders relates that just six months into 2008, 17 journalists have been killed and 133 are currently imprisoned.
Our presence here is a sad reminder that journalists risk their lives to protect a most basic freedom: the freedom to receive information. Information that sometimes is a matter of life and death – like in the case of Burma, where the country’s military junta minimized the threat of the cyclone but VOA and RFA warned of the lethal strength of the storm days in advance.
Today is an occasion to honor all of our journalists.
They persevere, believing that people deserve honest assessments of current events.
Reporting continues for the Middle East Broadcasting Network in Iraq, despite the hazard of reporting in a war zone and despite continued threats to journalists from militants. Reporting continues for Voice of America in Zimbabwe, despite campaigns of intimidation – including arbitrary arrest of journalists – instigated by the government in Harare. Stringers continue to report for Radio Free Asia and VOA in Burma, despite the need to remain anonymous lest they be caught by a regime that shuns any non-state sanctioned media. Reporting continues for Radio and TV Mart