Statement of the Broadcasting Board of Governors: Recent Threats to Media Freedom

The Broadcasting Board of Governors made the following statement at its meeting on September 15, 2011.

The BBG takes the opportunity of this open meeting to shine a spotlight
on efforts to thwart media freedom and intimidate our journalists in
countries where we work.  We’ll provide updates on the status of our
reporters and operations as a standard part of subsequent Board meetings.

The Board expresses profound concern about Iran, where Internet access
to reporting by VOA’s Persian News Network and RFE’s Radio Farda is
blocked, websites are aggressively hacked, shortwave broadcasts are
jammed and persons associated in any way with our programs are arrested
or worse.  We learned recently that the Iranian government is jamming
satellite transmissions of the BBC’s Persian service TV. Taken together,
these practices amount to the construction of an “electronic curtain”
isolating the Iranian people from the rest of the world.

We protest the August 31 abduction and expulsion to the Iranian border
of a correspondent with RFE’s Azerbaijani service who was reporting a
story. We have raised the case with the State Department and local
officials and have requested an explanation from the Azerbaijani
government.

We reject a legal warning issued in connection with VOA coverage of the
U.N.-backed tribunal in Cambodia that has been investigating atrocities
committed by the former Khmer Rouge regime.  The Board insists on the
journalistic and legal responsibility of all our broadcast services to
provide balanced coverage of important issues, and objects to the
chilling effect the warning may have on independent media inside the
country.

We also object to a recent pattern of intimidation towards RFA and VOA
reporters in Nepal, who have been physically threatened because of their
reporting on Tibet.

Finally, the Board condemns the routine violence that our journalists in
many countries face simply for doing their jobs.  On September 3,
Alexandre Neto, a VOA reporter, was assaulted by plain-clothed police
who also confiscated some of his equipment while he was covering a
pro-democracy rally in the Angolan capital of Luanda.  A cameraman with
Alhurra TV was attacked on August 10 in Yemen by several unidentified
men who tried to stab him with daggers.

The Board welcomes the news that Abdumalik Boboyev, a correspondent for
VOA, has finally been permitted to travel to Germany to study. Boboyev
was arrested and charged with ‘libel’ last year for his broadcasts. He
managed to avoid prison but was fined $11,000 for ‘insulting the Uzbek
people.’

To learn more about the above incidents, go to:

*BBG Statement on Hacking and Signal Interference in Iran
*Reporters without Borders on Violence in Bahrain
*RFE Azerbaijani Correspondent Abducted, Expelled to Iran
*VOA Statement on Warning to Journalists in Cambodia
*VOA Statement on the Assault on its Reporter in Angola
*BBG Statement of Concern for VOA Reporter Bobayev

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