Statement from the Broadcasting Board of Governors on Press Freedom in Iran

Days ahead of the one year anniversary of its disputed presidential election, the Government of Iran has stepped up efforts to keep its citizens from receiving independently reported news and information by reinvigorating its apparent jamming of TV and radio broadcasts, blocking websites and pressuring global news agencies to keep video of events within the country from being transmitted back to Iran.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors condemns these actions by the Government of Iran and calls on authorities to open the airwaves and respect the rights of its people to freedom of opinion and expression.

This attempt to control access to all media in Iran is part of a larger pattern of press restrictions. These include the renewed apparent jamming of satellite television signals and other efforts to block broadcasts and Internet sites of international broadcasters including Voice of America’s (VOA) Persian News Network (PNN) and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s (RFE/RL) Radio Farda. The interference with transmissions also is coincidental with VOA’s broadcast to Iran of the HBO documentary “For Neda,” the tragic story of the young Iranian woman shot and killed last year during the turmoil that followed Iran’s controversial presidential election. Now, pressure from the Government of Iran is forcing Reuters News Service to suspend the use of video footage by Voice of America’s PNN. BBC Persian is also being suspended from using Reuters video. Last June, the Associated Press came under similar pressure from the Government of Iran, preventing VOA and BBC from using AP video in broadcasts to Iran.

Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights guarantees, “the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference, and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”

It is evident that U.S. international broadcasting and other broadcasts in Persian play a crucial role in providing free and accurate information to the people of Iran who are increasingly cut off from unbiased news. U.S. international broadcasters reach nearly 23 percent of Iranian adults on a weekly basis on TV, radio and Internet and VOA’s PNN is the most popular international television station in Iran.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting, whose mission is to promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective, and balanced news, information, and other programming about America and the world to audiences overseas. BBG broadcasts reach an audience of 171 million in 100 countries. BBG broadcasting organizations include the Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa), Radio Free Asia, and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Marti).