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New BBG Chairman Cites Threats Against RFE/RL Journalists

In the first meeting featuring three new members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), Jeff Shell, the Board's new Chairman, addressed the importance of the mission of US international media, and paid special tribute to the reporters who face danger on a daily basis.

Shell made special mention of Khadija Ismayilova, an investigative journalist with RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, who has been subject to a sustained and escalating campaign of defamation and intimidation since March 2012, following her reporting on the Azeri ruling family's financial holdings.

Shell also referred to a menacing letter received by RFE/RL's Georgian service earlier this month in which a "representative of the President of Abkhazia," a breakaway region of Georgia, called RFE/RL a "propagandist information service" and pledged to "to take certain measures" against its operations there. RFE/RL has interpreted this phrase as a threat against its stringers in the region.

Shell reminded colleagues that it was one year since Alhurra TV's reporter Bashar Fahmi went missing while on assignment in Syria. Fahmi disappeared while covering a firefight in Aleppo that took the life of another journalist and resulted in the capture of cameraman Cüneyt Ünal, who was later released.
In other incidents that were mentioned, VOA reporters Elizabeth Arrott and Japhet Weeks were pulled from their car, roughed up and detained by police while reporting on the crackdown on pro-Morsi demonstrators in Cairo. The Board remembered Simon Wade Kasmiro, a reporter working on VOA's South Sudan in Focus radio show, who was killed in a traffic accident on August 5, 2013.