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US BBG Condemns Ethiopian Charges Against VOA Journalists


The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) today unanimously passed a resolution condemning the Ethiopian government’s charges against five Voice of America (VOA) Horn of Africa broadcasters as “a blatant attempt to criminalize freedom of the press” and calling upon that country’s government to drop the charges without delay.

The BBG resolution further states, “The people of Ethiopia deserve unfettered access to accurate, balanced and comprehensive information. For the past 24 years, the Voice of America has provided them with precisely that, and will continue to do so.”

The Board action comes one day before the Federal High Court in Addis Ababa is scheduled to start the trials of more than 80 opposition leaders, journalists, and aid workers who are in Ethiopia and have been charged with crimes such as treason and incitement to genocide.

The five Ethiopian-born VOA employees accused in the case all work in Washington and are all American citizens. All were charged in absentia. According to Amnesty International, 14 independent journalists are included in the full list of 131 defendants, which includes individuals who live outside Ethiopia but may be tried in absentia.

VOA Director David S. Jackson hailed the BBG’s resolution and added: “VOA continues to stand behind its reporting and its reporters. Our Ethiopian listeners deserve news that is accurate and uncensored, and we will not be intimidated.”

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported, non-military international broadcasting, including The Voice of America (VOA); Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa); Radio Free Asia (RFA); and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Martí). Through its broadcast services, the BBG provides the United States and its leaders direct and immediate access to a worldwide audience of 140 million people. Current governors are Chairman Kenneth Y. Tomlinson, Joaquin F. Blaya, Blanquita W. Cullum, D. Jeffrey Hirshchberg, Edward E. Kaufman, Norman J. Pattiz, and Steven J. Simmons. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice serves as an ex officio member.

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The U.S. Broadcasting Board of Governors today (February 22, 2006) unanimously passed the following resolution regarding the Ethiopian government’s charges against five Voice of America (VOA) Horn of Africa broadcasters.

RESOLUTION

BROADCASTING BOARD OF GOVERNORS

WHEREAS the Government of Ethiopia has brought serious charges against five Voice of America Journalists;

WHEREAS the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the parent body of the Voice of America, stands for the free flow of information and the right of all to send and receive information, regardless of international boundaries, along with the right of all journalists to practice their profession without fear of retribution or retaliation;

RESOLVED: We the members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors in the strongest possible way condemn the false and unjust charges by the Ethiopian government against five VOA Horn of Africa Service broadcasters. These charges include incitement to genocide and outrages against the constitution.

We consider these charges as nothing more than a blatant attempt to criminalize freedom of the press. We stand unequivocally and unflinchingly by our journalists and the quality of their work. The people of Ethiopia deserve unfettered access to accurate, balanced and comprehensive information. For the past 24 years, the Voice of America has provided them with precisely that, and will continue to do so.

We call upon the Ethiopian government to drop these baseless charges without delay.

(The Broadcasting Board of Governors)

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