Washington, D.C. — President Obama sent a birthday message to the Voice of America on Wednesday, calling the 70-year-old international broadcasting agency a “voice of freedom” that reminds people living in repressive societies that “they are not alone.”
Other videotaped anniversary messages sent by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Nobel Peace Prize Winners Aung San Suu Kyi and the Dalai Lama, paid tribute VOA, which first went on the air February 1st, 1942.
In the audience for the anniversary event at the agency’s Washington headquarters were current and former U.S. international broadcasting officials, including 95-year old Walter Roberts, the last surviving member of the small team that organized the first broadcasts to Nazi Germany in World War Two.
President Obama said millions of people around the world “draw hope and strength” from VOA broadcasts. “In the face of foreign government’s that censor, you provide news that’s accurate and objective. In the face of regimes that deny universal rights, you stand for freedom and democracy,” the President said.
In her message, Secretary of State Clinton noted the agency has adapted to a rapidly changing world and grown into a “vibrant multimedia network that employs every medium there is, from television to Twitter.”
President Obama and Mrs. Clinton both paid tribute to VOA reporter Mukarram Khan Aatif, who in January was shot and killed by Taliban militants in Pakistan’s lawless tribal region.
Burmese democracy leader and Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi said the anniversary was like the birthday of a friend, “because the VOA and other broadcasting stations were the friends who kept me company during my long years of house arrest.”
In his message of congratulations, Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama said it is “unfortunate that censorship and distortion of news is prevalent in some parts of the world.” For that reason he said, “news organizations like VOA are critically important in providing comprehensive and impartial news.” He said he hoped the agency would continue to grow.
Voice of America reaches a global weekly audience of more than 311.8 million people in 47 languages. VOA programs are delivered on satellite, cable, shortwave, FM, medium wave, streaming audio and video and more than 2,350 media outlets worldwide. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through USAGM.
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Contact Bridget Serchak
Director of Public Relations, Office of Public Relations