Friday, May 27th 2016
The welcome release today of RFE/RL’s Khadija Ismayilova by Azerbaijani authorities after more than 500 days in prison, and the word a few hours later of Angolan authorities’ foul treatment of a VOA stringer (see VOA press release), show how the quest for the facts by U.S. international media is feared by local authorities in many regimes.
Due notice of these, and the killing of Mukarram Khan Aatif by Taliban operatives in Afghanistan four years ago last January, the beating of his VOA Deewa Radio colleague Naimutallah Sarhadi in Pakistan and VOA Kurdish reporter Zhiyar Muhamad earlier this month swell the list of attacks on those simply doing their job: reporting news of vital interest to audiences they reach. As Broadcasting Board of Governors Director and CEO John Lansing put it: these “aggressive acts are only meant to silence independent journalism and freedom of expression. Threats to the free practice of journalism are a denial of basic human rights and must not be supported by any government.”
In danger zones around the globe, the risks of on-scene reporting have imperiled or cost the lives of many U.S. international broadcast reporters.
Bashir Fahmi, a TV correspondent for Alhurra TV in Syria, has been missing since August 20, 2012. Fahmi was reporting from Aleppo with three other journalists when a firefight erupted. Japanese journalist Mika Yamakoto was killed and Turkish cameraman Cunyet Unal was captured. The BBG repeatedly has called for information about Fahmi’s fate with no response.
And only last January, a VOA Yemeni photojournalist named Almigdad Mojalli, was killed in an airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states in Jaref, a Houthi-controlled district south of the Yemen’s capital city, Sanaa. Seriously wounded, he died en route to a nearby hospital. Mojalli left behind a family of seven, and his album of photo essays appearing on the VOA website had a subtitle quoting one outraged Yemeni civilian observer as saying that “airstrikes on Yemeni’s most vulnerable children is an attack on humanity.”