With Three New Members, Board Affirms Dedication to BBG’s Mission and Strong Support for Journalists

WASHINGTON – Three new members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors today expressed their commitment to the mission of U.S. international media as they took part in an open meeting of the BBG board for the first time since their appointment by the President earlier this month.

Jeff Shell

Jeff Shell chairs the August 21 BBG meeting

“The mission of this organization is pure, it’s inspiring, it’s important,” said the Board’s new chairman, Jeff Shell, in introducing himself.

Matthew Armstrong and Ambassador Ryan Crocker noted the key foreign policy role of international broadcasting and joined Shell in expressing gratitude for the work and expertise of fellow governors Susan McCue and Michael Meehan.

Drawing upon his experience as a private-sector media executive, Shell observed, “Our world is changing rapidly.  This organization is going to keep changing as the world keeps changing, and in some ways that is very, very exciting.”

Shell also commented on the valuable contributions of the agency’s employees in covering the news and advancing freedom of expression, and he highlighted the dangers that many reporters face on a daily basis.  He took special note of the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of Alhurra TV’s reporter Bashar Fahmi in Syria.  Fahmi went missing after a firefight in Aleppo that took the life of another journalist and resulted in the capture of cameraman Cüneyt Ünal, who was later released.“Journalists are at the heart of the agency’s mission, and they face risks every day in carrying out their duties,” Shell said. “This has been a long year of uncertainty and pain for Bashar’s wife and children and his Alhurra family. I ask that anyone with information about Bashar’s whereabouts or well-being step forward.”

Shell called attention to other threats to BBG journalists. Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist with Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Azerbaijan Service is facing escalating threats following her reporting on government corruption. RFE/RL’s Georgian Service reports receiving a letter threatening its stringers on the ground, and in Cairo, while reporting on the crackdown on pro-Morsi protestors, VOA reporters Elizabeth Arrott and Japhet Weeks were pulled from their car, roughed up and detained by police.  The Board paused to remember Simon Wade Kasmiro, a reporter working on VOA’s South Sudan in Focus radio show, who was killed in a traffic accident on August 5, 2013.

Scene from Aug 21 board meetingThe Board praised the dedication and faithful service of former Board members Victor Ashe, Michael Lynton, Dennis Mulhaupt, along with Under Secretary Tara Sonenshine as the Secretary of State’s former delegate to the Board, and unanimously adopted resolutions honoring their service and contributions.Shell expressed the BBG board’s anticipated focus on strategic rather than operational matters and announced the assignment of International Broadcast Bureau staffer Suzie Carroll to serve as Executive Director to coordinate communications and operations for the Board.

In a closed session to address personnel matters, the Board voted unanimously to approve the hiring of Leslie Hyland as Chief Financial Officer for the BBG.  Hyland started with the agency last month after being interviewed by Governors, but her new role could not be officially ratified until the Board regained a quorum.

The Board agreed to meet every other month and voted to meet next on Wednesday, October 23 and Wednesday, December 18.

To watch a recording of the open meeting and read the resolutions adopted, click here.

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