BBG Renews Calls for Press Freedom

On the occasion of UN Human Rights Day 2010, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) renews its call for press freedom and freedom of information around the world.

“Advancing press freedom is central to our mission, including our efforts to combat censorship online and on the airwaves” said Walter Isaacson, chairman of the BBG. “As a model of free press, our journalists around the world endure hardships and take great risks to bring news and information – via everything from SMS text to shortwave radio – that is vital to our audiences, particularly in places in conflict or without a free and vibrant media.”

Since their inception, BBG broadcasters – Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio Sawa, Alhurra Television, Radio and TV Marti and Radio Free Asia – have worked to facilitate the free and open exchange of ideas, and they continue to do so in some of the most repressive, closed societies: Listeners of Radio Free Asia and VOA’s Burmese services will soon be able to engage Burmese opposition party leader Aung San Suu Kyi on topics of their choice in two unique weekly series. The audience will be able to ask questions on any topic, which are then answered by the recently freed Nobel Peace Prize laureate.

At the same time in another county without press freedom, Radio and TV Martí have begun to open their programs to callers from the island of Cuba. “We want our audience to know that they are valued contributors to our programming and the exchange of ideas and information is central to our broadcasts,” said Carlos A. García-Pérez, director of Radio and TV Martí. The Cuban government fosters one the world’s most restrictive media environments – in the bottom ten of the Freedom of the Press rankings by Freedom House.

Unfortunately, it is all too common that journalists endanger themselves simply for reporting the news. This year, VOA journalist Abdumalik Bobayev was tried in Uzbekistan after authorities charged him with threatening public safety, slander, insult, and visa violations. The BBG has condemned the government’s attempt to silence objective reporting for VOA, noting that the manipulation of the criminal justice system to punish journalists for freely expressed views has a chilling effect on journalists throughout the country. Similarly, in the last week, Alhurra’s journalists covering Egypt’s recent elections were charged with formal complaints by the country’s Ministry of Information.

The BBG will continue to work in some of the most difficult and challenging environments to bring reliable news and information to those denied this fundamental human right. For more information on UN Human Rights Day click here. For more information about press freedom around the world, visit freedomhouse.org.

In addition, this year World Press Freedom Day will be recognize in a series of events May 1-3, 2011 in Washington, DC. The BBG welcomed this announcement by UNESCO and the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton .

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