Free and independent news and information is essential in developing and defending democracy, the latest example is demonstrated courageously across North Africa and the Middle East right now. In this context, it is bizarre and inappropriate for the British government to axe essential parts of the international broadcasting institution which is the BBC World Service.
The axe will fall on vital BBC World Service transmissions this week as a result of government funding cuts.
The final broadcasts will take place on Friday 25 February from the BBC Portuguese service to Africa, the Spanish Latin American service (BBC Mundo), and the services to Serbia and Albania.
The National Union of Journalists (NUJ) in the UK has reacted angrily to the announcement that international services and jobs are to be lost through the cuts programme.
NUJ Deputy General Secretary, Michelle Stanistreet said: “The importance of the free flow of information in developing and defending democracy is being demonstrated so courageously across North Africa and the Middle East right now. It is particularly bizarre and inappropriate to witness an essential international broadcasting institution like the World Service being torn apart through short-sighted management and government cuts.”
IFJ Vice-President based in Argentina, Gustavo Granero said: “The BBC holds a special place in our lives. The closure of BBC Mundo is not just a concern for the UK. It matters to all of us as it affects all our societies that demand quality information. Just as in Chile media owners and government have done little to save a voice and defend informative pluralism, the same seems to occur today with the BBC. We stand by our colleagues at BBC Mundo and the NUJ and saddened by this blow to journalism and public service”.
Speaking from Mozambique after 30 years reporting on Africa, journalist and visiting fellow at the LSE & Open University, Joseph Hanlon said: “The most trusted radio voice in Africa is the BBC, it has won listeners and trust for accuracy and unbiased reporting over five decades of broadcasting. The relatively inexpensive Portuguese for Africa service has made Britain much better known in Mozambique than its much more expensive aid programme.”
Expert on Eastern Europe and journalist, Misha Glenny said: “As the BBC Central Europe Correspondent at the time of the establishment of its Albanian-language service in the early 1990s, I found it especially tragic and ironic that the BBC announced its closure of the service just as a major political crisis erupted in the Albanian capital, Tirana. Last month’s clashes between opposition protestors and the government-backed police resulted in the deaths of four innocent men.
“The Serbian service has unflinchingly reported truths which have confounded nationalists and demagogues. Its demise is deeply upsetting.”
Director of the Albanian Media Institute in Tirana, Remzi Lani said: “The news that BBC World Service in Albanian, Serbian, and Macedonia will cease their activity is certainly a grim one. In these 18 years, BBC World Service in Albanian has been a most valuable and credible source of information, reporting on relevant and sensitive issues with significant professionalism.”
Media Federation President, Branislav Canak said: “We are concerned to hear the news that the BBC World service for Serbia will be stopped. That service has had an enormously important role in the struggle of Serbian society for peace and democracy during the Milosevic era, but also today, when Serbia still stumbles over the remnants of the past and lacks vision to progress. “
Serbian Ambassador to the UK, Dr Dejan Popovic said: “One should bear in mind that not all processes in the Balkans are in their final stages – some, like our dialogue with Pristina, are yet to begin. The role the media will play in that process will be of crucial importance, steering the public along the way – I believe that both Serbian and Albanian sections, would be of enormous help in setting the tone on the media scene.”
International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary, Sharan Burrow said: “Trade unionists and other supporters of freedom of expression around the world rely on the BBC World Service for facts instead of propaganda, news instead of ignorance, a voice for the unwillingly silent.
“Shutting down that voice is an act of sheer vandalism. It leaves the BBC – and the cause of freedom – diminished and bereft.”
For a fuller list of supporters and longer quotes please go to the NUJ website here: http://www.nuj.org.uk/innerPagenuj.html?docid=1947
For more information please contact Sarah Kavanagh NUJ Campaigns and Communications Officer on firstname.lastname@example.org or +447843549006
For comments from Embassies, here is the FCO contact list: http://www.fco.gov.uk/resources/en/protocol/ldl-january-2011