Albanian-American politician, CUSIB member opposes proposed VOA cuts

BBG Watch

Mark Gjonaj, a New York State Assembly member and Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) advisor has written a letter to Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) Chairman Kenneth Weinstein opposing proposed cuts in Voice of America (VOA) broadcasts to Albania and other proposed cuts to BBG taxpayer-funded news programs to the Balkan region.

We repost the full text of his letter.

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June 19, 2017

Kenneth Weinstein
Chairman

Broadcasting Board of Governors
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237
 

Dear Mr. Weinstein;

Let me take this opportunity to introduce myself.  My name is Mark Gjonaj and I am an elected New York State Assembly member, serving the 80th district.  As the first Albanian-American elected Assemblyman, I serve as not only the voice for Albanian Americans throughout New York metropolitan area, but all people who live and work in this district and its surrounding areas.

This letter is written regarding the vital concerns I have for the planned cuts in the Broadcasting Board of Governors‘2018 budget and the prospective plans to eliminate services to Macedonia and the Balkans. 
As global tensions continue to rise and peace in the Balkans remains fragile, this is not the time to cut substantive news coverage in Macedonia or in the Balkan Region. Russia’s efforts to expand its influence in Eastern Europe, often through controlled media, dictates that the people be fully informed by a balanced and timely news service. Furthermore, local Balkan media is often manipulated to serve the interests of ruling or powerful parties and individuals at the expense of the truth, facts and benefit of the free world.

The use of media is undeniably the most effective method to prevent extremist forces seeking to establish their presence in the region and rebut human rights issues in the Balkans. The root of some of the past bloody conflicts in the Balkans can be attributed to disinformation or suppression of information.  It is an undisputed fact that Russia’s historic ties to this region have been based on manipulating the media, which is evident in the US and EU imposed sanctions. The Macedonian community relies on Voice of America’s services to receive balanced news and uncensored information.  In order to protect and further interests of the United States, Voice of America should continue to be a source of information for all the people in this region.

I welcome the opportunity to gather a group of leaders to meet with you in person in New York or Washington DC to further discuss the relevance of this matter for my constituency as well as me personally.  I am confident that the benefit of continuing the legacy of Voice of America will considerably exceed the financial costs of it.  Timely and accurate information may avoid further bloody conflicts.

Thank you in advance for your time in this crucial matter.  I look forward to your reply.

Respectfully,

Mark Gjonaj
Assembly Member, 80th AD

cc: Amanda Bennett; Jeff Shell; Karen Kornbluh; M Kempner; Leon Aron; Ryan Crocker; John Lansing; Amanda Bennett; Bruce Wharton

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