Statement by CEO John F. Lansing for 2017 World Press Freedom Day
You’re not free, if the press isn’t.
It cannot be denied that access to free and open information makes societies safer, more tolerant and more resilient. But global press freedom is at its lowest point in over a decade. So as press freedom continues to decline around the world, the work of the BBG is even more vital. The unbiased news and information provided by our five networks—Voice of America, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí), Radio Free Asia, and the Middle East Broadcasting Networks—encourage dialogue and stimulate debate in closed societies where authoritarian regimes seek to control information. Not only do we provide uncensored news to people who need it the most, we provide a model for a free and independent media.
Our journalists do this at great personal risk. Fourteen journalists of U.S. international media have been killed in the line of duty, one remains missing, and hundreds have been injured. Currently, we have journalists jailed in Vietnam (Nguyễn Ngọc Già and Nguyễn Văn Hoá) and Turkmenistan (Saparmamed Nepeskuliev), and officials in Russia-annexed Crimea have indicted Mykola Semena, a contributor to the RFE/RL website Crimea Realities, on charges of separatism. Semena could face five years in prison if found guilty.
When we lose independent voices, we run the risk of conceding the information space to hostile regimes, extremists, and rogues.
It is the job of BBG and its networks to be the bridge between men and women living in oppressed societies and the rest of the world. It is a responsibility we do not take lightly. We will not let authoritarian regimes dictate our editorial decisions. We know our work is filling a need for people around the world—our audiences tell us so. And more and more people are turning to BBG networks for their news and information—more than 278 million people each week. But, the simple fact is unless press freedom is treated as a human right and a universal priority, many brave journalists around the world will continue to be arrested, harassed, threatened and killed, only because they told the truth.
So today, I honor the brave women and men of the BBG and all journalists around the world. By providing unbiased news and information, and supporting civil society in these media restrictive environments, they are making the world a safer place.