Broadcasting Board Emphasizes Prevalence of Threats to Journalists in Pakistan, Syria and Azerbaijan

Springfield, Va. — Highlighting threats to media freedom worldwide at its meeting on March 8, the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) paid tribute to a pair of fallen journalists and another under intense pressure in Azerbaijan.

At the top of the session held at the headquarters of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks, Inc. (MBN), Board members remembered Voice of America reporter Mukarram Khan Aatif, who was murdered in January by Pakistani militants; and photojournalist Remi Ochlik, who worked for MBN and died last month during the bombing of Homs, Syria.  They spoke out in defense of Khadija Ismailova, a freelancer for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) who has built a reputation in Azerbaijan as a fearless investigative reporter, and has been targeted in a blackmail campaign.

“The work of United States International Broadcasting is hard and dangerous,” said Presiding Governor Michael Lynton.  “Recent events are sad reminders of the risks BBG journalists face as they strive to report on regions in conflict.”

Gov. Michael Meehan noted that, in addition to the journalists who have perished, many more have been silenced by imprisonment. “It is a disturbing trend … and we call on these countries to release these journalists,” he said.

The Board congratulated VOA on its 70th anniversary program, including the video greeting from President Obama, who noted, “From that very first broadcast during World War II, and ever since, the Voice of America has been the voice of freedom, ” reminding people living in repressive societies that “they are not alone.”

Other highlights of the VOA commemoration included videotaped anniversary messages sent by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Nobel Peace Prize Laureates Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama.

The Governors passed resolutions honoring Walter Isaacson, who resigned from the Board to concentrate on his writing career last month; and Assistant Secretary of State Ann Stock, who represented Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on the board until recently. The Board also honored Michael R. Marchetti, who retires at the end of March after 46 years with RFE/RL.

The BBG also considered a report from the Governance Committee regarding Board leadership, Board operating procedures, the status of the consolidation of BBG-sponsored grantees, and the future structure for U.S. international broadcasting.

In addition, the Board received updates on the budget and the Commission on Innovation, reports from the director of the International Broadcasting Bureau and other senior staff, and programming and coverage updates from broadcast executives.

Earlier, Board members visited the Alhurra TV newsroom and met with staff, congratulating them on their work covering the Arab Spring and Alhurra’s selection of International Broadcasting’s People’s Choice Awards.

The Board toured Radio Sawa’s facilities, singling out for special recognition its coverage of the revolution in Libya and recognizing its accomplishments on its 10th anniversary.


Record of Decisions
Resolution Honoring Walter Isaacson
Resolution Honoring Ann Stock
Resolution Honoring Michael Marchetti
Minutes of the January 13, 2012, Meeting of the BBG
Minutes of the February 11, 2012, Special Meeting of the BBG

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The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency, supervising all U.S. government-supported, civilian international broadcasting, whose mission is inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy. BBG broadcasts reach an audience of 187 million in 100 countries. BBG networks 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 Martí).