BBG Watch Commentary
U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) posted its last VOA English News update on President Obama’s visit to Poland Tuesday, June 3 at 10:25 AM EDT and has not updated its report since then (It is now 10:00 PM EDT.) to reflect various meetings and events President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry had in Poland, including their meeting with Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev. The Voice of America did not report on President Obama’s meeting with Central and Eastern European leaders who together welcomed the election of President-elect Petro Poroshenko and discussed the situation in Ukraine.
VOA English News has failed to report that Mustafa Dzhemilev, a Crimean Tatar leader, received the Lech Walesa Solidarity Award at a ceremony Tuesday in Warsaw attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Ukraine’s President-elect Petro Poroshenko. Kerry has criticized what he says is a new rash of human rights abuse against Tatars in Crimea since the annexation, which was also not reported by VOA English News.
Voice of America English News also failed to report that President Obama also met today in Warsaw with Mustafa Dzhemilev.
Last month, Voice of America failed to report for its worldwide English audiences on a statement by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on the 70th anniversary of Crimean Tatar deportation on orders of Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin. The vast majority of more than 40 VOA language services also ignored the 70th anniversary of one of the major genocides of the 20th century.
In announcing the Solidarity Prize for Mustafa Dzhemilev, Polish Foreign Minister Radosław Sikorski said: “For years, Mustafa Dzhemilev has been promoting democracy and civil rights and civil liberties in Ukraine, specifically among the Tatar community. Dzhemilev demonstrated his democratic views as early as Soviet times, spending 10 years in a Soviet Gulag as a dissident.” The Solidarity Prize was established by the Polish minister of foreign affairs to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Poland’s peaceful democratic transition.
“Fifteen world authorities on democracy and human rights took part in the winner’s selection,” said Minister Radosław Sikorski. Former Polish foreign ministers Władysław Bartoszewski and Adam Daniel Rotfeld, the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy for the European Union Catherine Ashton, Burmese human rights leader and opposition politician Aung San Suu Kyi and Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Carl Bildt were among those who nominated candidates. The final, unanimous decision to select Mustafa Dzhemilev for the Solidarity Prize was taken on 25 April by the Prize Committee headed by Poland’s former President Lech Wałęsa.
The Russian authorities have banned Dzhemilev from entering Crimea. Crimea’s 300,000 Tatars are some of the original Muslim inhabitants of the peninsula annexed by Russia.
The main Voice of America English news website has not reported on today’s ceremony in Warsaw honoring Dzhemilev, which was attended by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and on Dzhemilev’s meeting with President Obama, even though VOA English has a worldwide audience which includes many who like the Tatars are Muslims and deeply sympathize with their current plight under renewed Russian rule in Crimea. The vast majority of VOA’s more than 40 other language services also had nothing on this news story, but the VOA Ukrainian Service had it as a first item on its popular television news program for Ukraine.
This year marks the 70th anniversary of Joseph Stalin’s forcible deportation of more than 230,000 Crimean Tatars from their homeland in Crimea. “Nearly half of those deported, mostly women and children, perished between 1944 and 1947. Many Crimean Tatars and their descendants remain in exile today,” Secretary Kerry said in a statement issued last month to commemorate the anniversary of the Tatars’ deportation from Crimea.
Germany’s Deutsche Welle (DW) posted a full-length report on Dzhemilev in connection with the Solidarity Prize, but even though the ceremony in Warsaw was attented by top U.S. leaders, Voice of America English News and almost all VOA language services failed to report on it.
READ: Mustafa Dzhemilev’s battle for Crimea, Roman Goncharenko, Deutsche Welle (DW), June 3, 2014.
— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) June 3, 2014
— @NSCPress (@NSCPress) June 3, 2014
The following information on the Lech Walesa Solidarity Award for Crimean Tatar leader Mustafa Dzhemilev was provided to the media by the White House Press Office. The Voice of America did not use any of it.
From the White House:
The Solidarity Award will be granted for the first time on June 3, 2014 in connection with the 25th anniversary of the first partly-free parliamentary elections in Poland. The Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that Mustafa Dzhemilev will be awarded the inaugural prize. According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which established this award, the Solidarity Award is granted to an individual who is guided by the principles of human and international solidarity, and has made a tangible and clear contribution to introducing, strengthening or protecting democracy and political transformation—globally, in individual countries or regions. The award comprises three components: EUR 250,000 is granted to the winner; EUR 700,000 will be allocated to Polish development assistance programs selected by the winner; and EUR 50,000 will be provided for the winner’s study tour in Poland.
Mustafa Dzhemilev is the leader of Crimea’s pro-Kyiv Tatar community. The Ukrainian lawmaker and Soviet-era dissident has dedicated his life to fighting for the rights of his people. Dzhemilev was born in Ay-Serez, Crimea, then Russian SFSR, on November 13, 1943. He was only six months old when his family, with the rest of the Crimean Tatar population, was deported by Soviet authorities in May 1944. He grew up in exile, in Uzbekistan. Between 1966 and 1986, Dzhemilev was arrested six times for anti-Soviet activities and served time in Soviet prisons and labor camps, or lived under surveillance. In May 1989, he was elected to head the newly founded Crimean Tatar National Movement. The same year he returned to Crimea with his family, a move that would be followed by the eventual return of 250,000 Tatars to their homeland. He has also been front and center in the Ukrainian crisis, telling a session of the UN Security Council in March that his people feared for their lives after Russia occupied and attempted to annex Crimea. Dzhemilez has spoken out forcefully against Russia’s illegal actions in Crimea, and Russian authorities have responded by preventing him from returning to his home.
The Voice of America also did not report on President Obama’s meeting with Central and Eastern European leaders who together welcomed the election of President-elect Poroshenko and discussed the situation in Ukraine.
The White House Readout of the meeting with Central and Eastern European Leaders:
The President and President Komorowski of Poland co-hosted a meeting today with Central and Eastern Europe leaders: President Plevneliev of Bulgaria, President Josipovic of Croatia, President Zeman of the Czech Republic, President Ilves of Estonia, President Ader of Hungary, President Berzins of Latvia, President Grybauskaite of Lithuania, President Basescu of Romania, and President Gasparovic of Slovakia.
The leaders welcomed the election of President-elect Poroshenko and discussed the situation in Ukraine, expressing their continuing grave concern about the occupation of Crimea and ongoing efforts to destabilize eastern Ukraine. They also reiterated U.S. and European support to assist the government and people of Ukraine as they work to establish security and stability, pursue constitutional reform, and revive their economy. The leaders welcomed U.S. and NATO reassurance measures in the region and discussed preparations for the September 2014 NATO Summit in Wales, emphasizing the need to enhance Alliance defense capabilities and investment. The leaders also stressed the importance of strengthening European energy security, to include diversification of fuels and sources, increased interconnections and infrastructure, and greater energy efficiency.