Intl broadcasters condemn rising threats to media freedom

MUMBAI: The heads of BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle, Radio France Internationale, Radio Netherlands Worldwide and the Voice of America have called upon governments to honour the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights and "end any and all practices that hamper the rights of people everywhere to receive and impart information."

At their annual meeting in Hilversum, the Netherlands, the directors of the BBC World Service, Deutsche Welle, Radio France Internationale, Radio Netherlands Worldwide and the Voice of America issued a joint resolution denouncing what they termed growing trends towards media restrictions and attacks on journalists in many of the countries to which they broadcast.

While acknowledging that each broadcaster has had different experiences, they spoke with one voice about a common concern – the "grave and rising threats to the right to gather information and communicate it across national borders."

Radio Netherlands Worldwide DG Jan Hoek said, "Our most important objective is to inform people without access to diverse media sources and viewpoints, who lack reliable and independent information.

"In a progressively polarised environment where the media in many countries are encountering fierce curbs on their freedom to publish, we need to stand together to meet the needs of those millions of audiences worldwide who have come to depend on us as a vital source of trustworthy information."

According to several press monitoring organisations, press freedom has been on the decline in many countries in recent years. The Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has tracked an increase in the number of journalists killed at work each year since 2002.

The five international broadcasters reach hundreds of millions weekly by radio, television and the Internet. Programmes are produced in 60 languages and broadcast worldwide through thousands of affiliate radio stations, television channels and cable systems.

The joint statement reads, "In recent years, international broadcasters have seen grave and rising threats to the right to gather information and communicate it across national borders.

"A growing number of countries – in Eurasia, Africa, South and East Asia, and Latin America – have restricted or blocked coverage of events of significant public interest. Journalists – including many working for our organisations – have been detained, arrested, expelled, kidnapped or killed.

"Particularly disturbing are new efforts by some governments, through the licensing and regulatory process, to restrict or forbid local rebroadcasts of our programmes on radio and television through local partnerships. And more states are deliberately interfering with broadcast signals or are attempting to block or censor the internet.

"As international broadcasters, we deplore such efforts – and call upon governments to end any and all practices that hamper the right of people everywhere to 'receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.'" [United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights]

"Each of us has a different history, a different mission, different resources and different experiences, but we all share a common goal – to present accurate and comprehensive news and information to audiences around the world. Accordingly, we oppose efforts to restrict this important work, and call upon governments worldwide to halt such practices."

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