WASHINGTON (May 1, 2015)– On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day (Sunday, May 3), the Broadcasting Board of Governors reiterates its commitment to defending and celebrating the fundamental principles of press freedom around the world. According to Freedom House, “conditions for the media deteriorated sharply in 2014, as journalists around the world faced mounting restrictions on the free flow of news and information.”
“Press freedom is a pillar of democracy, and a fundamental human right. Our networks broadcast to countries with the most restrictive press environments – providing news and information to those who otherwise would not have it,” said BBG Interim CEO and Director André Mendes. “In doing so, each of our networks plays a critical role in fulfilling our mission to inform, engage and connect people around the world in support of freedom and democracy.”
The worst of the worst in the Freedom House Press Freedom rankings include Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Russian-occupied Crimea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and North Korea as the world’s most restrictive press environments. The BBG’s networks broadcast to all ten – below are examples of their work in several of those countries.
Cuba — Despite continuous jamming efforts by the Cuban government, Radio and Television Martí reach audiences in Cuba through a combination of high and low-tech approaches, such as satellite television and radio, shortwave and AM radio, online video, flash drives, DVDs, email, SMS, and the Piramideo social network. A new report indicates that 20% of Cubans report listening to Radio Martí in the last seven days.
Syria — Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa cover the ongoing conflict in Syria through Arabic-language news and features, and RFE/RL’s “Under The Black Flag” blog reports about Islamic State (IS) in Syria and Iraq, examining the response to that militant group in the Arab world, Iran, and across the former Soviet Union. However, the situation in Syria is extremely dangerous for any journalist. Alhurra’s correspondent, Bashar Fahmi, disappeared during a reporting trip in Aleppo in 2012, and remains missing. There has been no word regarding Fahmi’s whereabouts or well-being since his disappearance nearly three years ago.
Uzbekistan — Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Uzbek Service is a trailblazer in Internet mobile delivery and social media. Its use of the WhatsApp and Telegram services allow RFE/RL to circumvent censorship in the country, and to engage their audiences to crowdsource news and deliver breaking news updates. VOA’s Uzbek Service provides comprehensive news coverage prominently featuring news about the United States, including U.S. perspectives on human rights issues, such as freedom of the press, that are not discussed on state-run media in Uzbekistan.
North Korea — Through sources inside the country and on the Chinese border, Radio Free Asia’s Korean Service provides uncensored news and commentary to the citizens of what is perhaps the most repressive country on earth. RFA has reported on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s crackdown on high-ranking officials, demotions of military personnel, and political persecution of those considered loyal to potential rivals for power. VOA also broadcasts to the country, serving as a source for high-quality news and information on the United States and the world, and focusing especially on countering the North Korean government’s systematic propaganda against the U.S.
Eritrea – VOA is the leading international broadcaster in Eritrea’s Tigrigna language, with 30 minutes of news and information Monday through Friday over shortwave radio, satellite, and mobile phones. For nearly 20 years, VOA’s Tigrigna Service has highlighted the suppression of media and civil society in Eritrea, including messages from listeners. Today, VOA engages Eritreans on social media, including Facebook, and with streaming video, including a Tigrigna translation of this past week’s interview with Freedom House press freedom project manager Jennifer Dunham.
Iran — VOA’s Persian Service and RFE/RL’s Radio Farda broadcast extensively to Iran via radio, TV, satellite, and new media. In addition, the BBG supports freedom of information in Iran via an Internet Anti-Censorship (IAC) program. The IAC team has deployed tools to Iran, including censorship circumvention tools, secure device-to-device sharing of multimedia news and secure uploading of user-generated content.
For more information on the BBG’s support of press freedom, you can follow us on Twitter at @BBGgov. Information about threats and harassment that our reporters have faced in the course of their reporting can be found here.