Michael Lynton
Michael Lynton

BBG Condemns Jamming, Intimidation as Threats to Media Freedom

Michael Lynton
Michael Lynton

The Broadcasting Board of Governors today expressed its enduring outrage over persistent attempts to stifle the free flow of news and information through satellite jamming, intimidation and the detention of journalists in Iran, Syria, Cambodia, Ethiopia and elsewhere.

During the BBG’s Oct. 11 meeting, Presiding Governor Michael Lynton condemned the jamming of BBG satellite signals in Iran and said BBG journalists are encountering new impediments to free reporting almost daily.

“Just yesterday, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America reporters were summoned to a meeting with officials in a blatant attempt to discourage objective reporting on the Cambodian government,” Lynton said. As reported by Reuters, AFP and others, RFA and VOA…are among the few radio stations in Cambodia considered free of government influence.”

The Board also expressed concern about the cases of Marthe van der Wolf, a VOA reporter in Ethiopia who was forced by local police to erase recordings of a protest rally, and Gulnur Raqifqizi Kazimova, a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) freelancer who was prohibited from taking pictures in Azerbaijan.

Members of the Board renewed their condemnation of recent illegal jamming of BBG Persian broadcasts to Iran that also affected many other BBG radio and TV programs around the globe, including broadcasts in Arabic, Georgian, Armenian, Bosnian, and Korean.

“The Board calls on Iran to cease disrupting broadcast signals, and to respect the well-established international agreements that prohibit jamming,” Lynton said.

The Board also noted that Monday marked 50 days since the capture of Alhurra TV journalist Bashar Fahmi and his cameraman Cüneyt Ünal in Syria, and renewed its demand that the pair be released.

Fahmi and Ünal were last heard from on August 20, when they were reporting from Aleppo, Syria. On August 26th, Ünal appeared on Syrian television, but the Syrian government said it has no information on Fahmi.

Lynton spoke at length of recent Russian legislative steps that have imposed restrictions on freedom of expression, including a law that is forcing RFE/RL programs off of the organization’s last AM affiliate in Moscow. He noted, “This board strongly objects to the tightening stranglehold on the free flow of information taking place today in Russia.”

The BBG recognized the David Burke Distinguished Journalism Awards winners. This year’s winners are: Mukarram Khan Aatif of the VOA’s Deewa Radio; Karen Caballero of Radio and TV Martí; Sailab Mahsud of RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal; RFA’s Korean Service; and Mohamed Moawad and Lamia Rezgui Bourogaa of the Middle East Broadcasting Networks’ Radio Sawa.

Several events at the meeting honored the legacy and ongoing work of the Voice of America.

Gov. Susan McCue honors Leo Sarkisian, standing
Gov. Susan McCue honors Leo Sarkisian, standing

Board members enjoyed a presentation honoring VOA Ethnomusicologist Leo Sarkisian, the creator of Music Time in Africa, VOA’s oldest English-language music program.  They presented a resolution expressing the agency’s appreciation to Sarkisian, who retired recently after a career that spanned more than half a century and took him to every country in Africa.

The Board also recognized the 20th anniversary of VOA’s Kurdish Service and the 50th anniversary of its Swahili Service.

Discussion at the meeting included the BBG’s expanded broadcasting reach in China via the Telstar satellite and other developments intended to modernize and extend the reach of the agency and its media worldwide.

Record of Decisions
Minutes of the BBG Meeting September 13, 2012
Minutes of the BBG Meeting of October 11, 2012
Proposed BBG Meeting Dates for 2013
Resolution Honoring Leo Sarkisian

For more information, please call the BBG’s Office of Public Affairs at 202-203-4400, or e-mail publicaffairs@bbg.gov.

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 Marti).