WASHINGTON (April 11, 2014) — At its April meeting, the Broadcasting Board of Governors took an in-depth look at the activities and accomplishments of Radio Free Asia, examining its impact and discussing RFA’s role in U.S. international media. The BBG also discussed its networks’ response to the crisis in Ukraine, Internet anti-censorship initiatives, and its strategy toward Iran.
BBG Chairman Jeff Shell opened the meeting by marking the tragic loss of Dr. Mohammed Bdaiwi Owaid Al-Shammari, the bureau chief for RFE/RL’s Radio Free Iraq, who was shot and killed on the way to work in Iraq on March 22.
“This is a profound loss for RFE/RL and the community of independent media in Iraq. We extend our condolences to Dr. Al-Shammari’s family, friends and colleagues,” said Chairman Shell, calling for a moment of silence in commemoration. The Board also noted the many threats to journalists working across the BBG’s networks in Ukraine, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Pakistan and Azerbaijan, and called on local authorities to do more to support and protect all working journalists.
The Board then discussed broadcasting to Iran, with an update from IBB Director of Global Strategy Robert Bole, who noted that according to recent survey research, U.S. international media has a larger audience there than any other international broadcaster. The Board voted on its broadcasting strategy to Iran, adopting a resolution to harmonize RFE/RL and VOA efforts in order to maximize the impact of its Persian-language programming to this strategically important country.
The Board also conducted a “deep-dive” session focused on RFA. RFA President Libby Liu, along with senior program directors and producers, presented highlights of the network’s multimedia activities, its programming and distribution and its effectiveness.
“The presentation today underscores the critical nature of RFA’s work, and the important impact it has on the lives of its audiences,” Shell said.
The meeting continued with a panel discussion of Ukraine and the crisis response across RFE/RL, VOA and IBB. Moderated by Robert Bole, the panel included Maryana Drach, Director, RFE/RL Ukrainian Service; Irina Lagunina, Director, RFE/RL Russian Service; Adam Gartner, Regional Marketing Officer, Prague; Paul Marszalek, Media Strategist, International Broadcasting Bureau; Kathryn Neeper, Program Analyst, International Broadcasting Bureau; Adrian Karmazyn, Service Chief, VOA Ukrainian Service; and Myroslava Gongadze, TV anchor and reporter, VOA Ukrainian Service.
Panelists discussed their work in the region and emphasized the urgent need to expose corruption, to counter Russian propaganda with unbiased news, and the importance of video journalism in engaging audiences.
The Board also discussed the work of its Committee on Internet Anti-Censorship and determined that it would split a new infusion of Internet freedom funding between the agency’s IAC division and RFA’s Open Technology Fund. The activities of each were detailed in a panel discussion with André Mendes, IBB Director of Global Operations, and OTF Director Dan Meredith.
Mendes and Meredith demonstrated a number of means by which the agency helps people worldwide overcome censorship on the Internet, and discussed their impact on audiences in information-deprived areas. Tools included encryption technologies, secure communications apps, and other means to circumvent government censorship to access news and information.
The Board also adopted a resolution naming the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Award winners, updated Board policies on non-disclosure of deliberative information and prohibition of harassment, and affirmed its code of conduct.
Videos of the meeting are posted here. Documents will be posted when they become available.