Board Members Discuss Media Freedom and Other Ongoing BBG Priorities and Hold a Town Hall Meeting on the Budget

DSC_0111WASHINGTON – Members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors met on May 15 — the second continuation of the Board’s recessed meeting on April 11 — and hosted an agency-wide town hall meeting about the FY 2014 budget proposal.

The Board meeting opened with a reference to the agency’s commemoration of World Press Freedom Day on May 3 and a discussion of dangers that BBG journalists confront every day.

“As we are well aware, many of the countries to which we broadcast lack press freedom, and our reporters continue to face threats, harassment, extrajudicial detention, and worse,” said Governor Victor Ashe.

Governor Ashe renewed the Board’s call for information on Bashar Fahmi, the missing Alhurra TV correspondent who has not been heard from since he disappeared in Syria almost nine months ago. He also expressed concern about Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Turkmen correspondent Rovshen Yazmuhamedov, who was detained without charges last Monday, May 6, in Turkmenistan, and last seen in a detention center there the next day.

Governor Ashe and Presiding Governor Michael Meehan also reported on their recent trips to Southeast Asia and Russia, respectively. During a personal trip to Southeast Asia, Governor Ashe visited the Radio Free Asia office in Phnom Penh along with RFA President Libby Liu and U.S. Ambassador to Cambodia William Todd. While in the region, Governor Ashe also visited the IBB and VOA staff in Bangkok, Thailand.

Governor Meehan reported on his trip with Governor Susan McCue and Acting RFE/RL President Kevin Klose to Moscow to consider matters relevant to U.S. international media in Russia. Among those with whom they met during their visit were journalists from RFE/RL and VOA, as well as U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul and human rights activist Lyudmila Alekseyeva.

Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs Tara Sonenshine took part in the meeting by telephone and offered observations on related foreign policy matters.

The Board also heard from members of the public and voted to adjourn until its next scheduled meeting on June 19, which will be held at RFE/RL’s offices in Prague and Washington, DC.

DSC_0095In the town hall meeting with agency staff, Governors Meehan and Ashe – who together comprise the Board’s Strategy and Budget Committee — reviewed the BBG’s portion of the President’s recent budget submission to Congress and explained its link to the agency’s strategic priorities.  The governors made a presentation on the budget and how it is formed, took questions from people in the audience and online, and discussed candidly the challenges driven by the dynamic media environment worldwide and the current spending constraints across the federal government.