Save Voice of America Programs to Russia and Other Media-at-Risk Countries
U.S. Congress, White House, Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG)
Supporters of Media Freedom
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Dont Let White House and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Silence Voice of Free Expression and Symbol of Americas Support for Press Freedom
Stop Policy of Selected Withdrawal from International Market of Ideas
Demand that BBG Stop Punishing Journalists by Eliminating Their Jobs When Dictators Succeed in Disrupting Distribution of U.S.-Funded Broadcasts
Stop Rewarding Dictators for Restricting Media Freedom
Dont Let Anna Politkovskayas Murderers Succeed by Shutting Down Programs She Had Used to Expose Kremlins Assault on Free Media*
Demand that BBG Reform U.S. Broadcasting Bureaucracy and Invest in Innovative Program Delivery Technologies
Demand that BBG Assume Responsibility for Helping Broadcasters Whose Job Is Frustrated by Putin, Karimov, and Other Predators of Press Freedom **
Ask Congress to Stop BBG Plans Restricting Broadcasts to Tibet, China, Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Georgia, and Other Media-at-Risk Countries
Ask Congress to Save VOA English Programs
Ask Congress to Restore Funding for VOA and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) Broadcasts to Russia
The FY2008 Federal Budget proposal offers good news to dictators, authoritarian rulers and suppressors of press freedom in a number of countries and regions. The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) - bipartisan body in charge of all U.S. civilian international broadcasting - confirmed plans for eliminating Voice of America (VOA) radio broadcasts in Russian, closing down VOA Uzbek radio service, reducing Tibetan broadcasts by VOA and Radio Free Asia (RFA), and stopping VOA and RFA broadcasts in Cantonese. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty programs to Kazakhstan will be reduced under this budget. The White House and the BBG also want to eliminate or reduce VOA and RFE/RL programs to the Balkans, where some media outlets continue to stir ethnic hatred. Many hours of VOA English broadcasts heard around the world in countries without free media are also scheduled for elimination. ***
It's true that the Bush Administration's FY2008 budget calls for enhancing U.S. broadcasting to countries that are some of the worst violators of human rights and press freedom: North Korea, Iran and Cuba. But the BBG again failed to convince the budget planners at the White House that media freedom is also under severe threat in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Russia, Tibet and China.
FreeMediaOnline.org, a nonprofit organization founded to support freedom of the press worldwide, describes these proposed cuts and reductions in U.S. international broadcasting as a "gift to dictators and suppressors of press freedom." Whenever budget cuts become necessary to pay for new programs to countries and regions where freedom of expression is suppressed, the BBG inevitably relies on cutting programs to audiences which are also deprived of free media but seem less important at that time for the current foreign policy goals of the Administration.
This lack of consistency sends a terrible signal to defenders of freedom and courageous journalists around the world. Some of them, like independent Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, paid with their lives for exposing human rights violations and participating in VOA Russian radio programs, which the White House and the BBG plan to eliminate. Journalists, human rights activists, and ordinary citizens in Russia are appalled by this decision and see it as a betrayal of Americas support for freedom. ****
The BBG could have saved these important broadcasts if it tried to reform the enormous bureaucracy of its program support divisions. Violators of press freedom in Russia, China, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan must be pleased that the BBG, which has both Republican and Democratic members, does not have the courage to stand up to the Administration or to reform its operations.
Administration officials and the Broadcasting Board of Governors took the easy way out by rewarding dictators and betraying defenders of press freedom in Russia and in other media-at-risk countries and regions.
The U.S. Congress should refuse to accept these cuts and demand from the White House and the BBG a consistent U.S. international broadcasting strategy in support of freedom.
* [Link to Ted Lipiens Article on FreeMediaOnline.org http://www.freemediaonline.org/journalist_murder_in_russia_contradics_us_international_broadcasting_strategy.htm]
** [Link to Reporters Without Borders (RSF) http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=13580]
*** [Link to BBG Announcement http://www.bbg.gov/_bbg_news.cfm?articleID=142&mode=general]
**** [Link to Comments from Russia on FreeMediaOnline.org Web Site http://www.freemediaonline.org/voa_protest_letter.htm]