(WASHINGTON – May 2, 2014) Despite new lows in the free exchange of information and ideas, RFE/RL journalists are reporting the news in some of the world’s most hostile environments.
“Our reporters do this work because they believe in it, not only as a basic human right but as a fundamental condition of human dignity, functional societies and peace,” said Nenad Pejic, RFE/RL’s Editor-in-Chief, in advance of World Press Freedom Day on May 3. “What happens without media freedom is tyranny, and this we cannot accept.”
In its Freedom of the Press 2014 report, Freedom House concludes that press freedom worldwide has fallen to its lowest level in more than a decade. Takeovers of independent media, aggressive propaganda, and legislation restricting free speech in Russia, and assaults, abductions, and arbitrary detentions of RFE/RL journalists in Ukraine, Belarus, and Azerbaijan confirm this trend.
War and insurgency have also put RFE/RL journalists in extreme danger in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, countries denounced for their treatment of journalists in the Committee to Protect Journalists’ 2014 Impunity Index. Most tragically, Mohammed Bdaiwi Owaid al-Shammari, Baghdad bureau chief for Radio Free Iraq, was shot and killed at a checkpoint near his office on March 22 in an incident that RFE/RL company managers called tragic, senseless, and shocking.
As a World Press Freedom Day tribute to the work of its journalists, RFE/RL honors just a few of its colleagues whose reporting is a daily testament to the power of free speech and free media.
Khadija Ismayilova, Azerbaijani Service: Ismayilova has been the target of smear campaigns and intimidation since 2012 in retaliation for her Radio Azadliq reporting on the financial activities of the country’s ruling family, and was accused of spying for the United States this spring.
Gordana Knezevic, Balkan Service: Knezevic, whose team celebrated the Service’s 20th anniversary this February, and who reported from Sarajevo at the height of the war in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the early 1990s, is committed to the belief that responsible, fair, and impartial journalism can heal national divisions.
Farshid Manafi, Radio Farda: “Pas Farda” (The Day After Tomorrow), Manafi’s satire show for RFE/RL’s Persian language service, spoofs the status quo in Iran, where 35 years after the Islamic Revolution, dissenting voices are endangered.
Natalie Sedletska, Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow, Ukrainian Service: Sedletska, reporting for Radio Svoboda, was among Ukraine’s first journalists to discover documents left behind by ousted President Viktor Yanukovych, and is a founder of the transparency project, YanukovychLeaks.
Daisy Sindelar, RFE/RL’s Central Newsroom: Sindelar has reported extensively from Mongolia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, and Bosnia-Herzegovina, often with a focus on the burdens and resiliency of women and minorities in conflict zones.
Franak Viachorka, Vaclav Havel Journalism Fellow, Belarus Service: Through his Radio Svaboda reporting and award-winning films, Viachorka has unflinchingly told the story of life under Europe’s “last dictatorship.”
RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service: In a country consistently ranked at the bottom of Freedom House’s press freedom ranking, steadfast reporting by Azatlyk Radiosy has opened channels for citizens to communicate grievances and for local authorities to respond.
Read more about RFE/RL’s reporters at our Journalists In Trouble and Watchdog blogs, as well as Lady Liberty, dedicated to highlighting the contributions of women journalists from RFE/RL as well as other media in our broadcast region.
RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs — radio, Internet, television, and mobile — reach influential audiences in 21 countries, including Russia, Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).