BBG Watch Commentary
Business as usual: Voice of America was late and behind BBC in posting a report on President Obama’s statement on the execution of American journalist Jim Foley and failed to mention missing Alhurra TV reporter Bashar Fahmi and a new Broadcasting Board of Governors’ (BBG) appeal for information on Fahmi’s whereabouts
While the Voice of America English (VOA) website apparently was showing live President Obama’s statement on the murder of American journalist Jim Foley by the terrorist group, ISIL, it took VOA editors unusually long time (but usual for VOA) to post the first news item summarizing the President’s key remarks. VOA was late and behind BBC and other media in posting a story on the President’s statement and failed to mention missing Alhurra TV reporter Bashar Fahmi and Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) chairman Jeff Shell’s latest appeal from yesterday for any new information about Fahmi.
There was a minor improvement, however. VOA English News reportedly posted the video of the presidential statement live, which it had failed to do on many occasions before, and the delay between the presidential statement and the first VOA summary online was dozens of minutes rather than several hours, as had been often the case in the past. We have also learned that as a result of criticism by BBG Watch, VOA executives have issued orders that statements by the U.S. President should not interrupted with normally scheduled programming changes. VOA had recently interrupted with a music program President Obama’s major speech about Africa in its radio broadcast to Africa.
The White House website shows that President Obama finished his statement today on the murder of Jim Foley at 12:57PM EDT. Even before the President finished speaking, the BBC website posted a summary of his key remarks at 12:50 EDT.
The main Voice of America Jim Foley news story (seen at 12:25 PM) was not updated to include Obama’s remarks for quite some time after the President finished speaking.
It appears that VOA finally included a summary of Obama’s remarks in its main lead on Foley with a 1:37 PM EDT time mark, long after the President finished his statement. This was also long after BBC had a summary of his statement posted on its website for international audiences.
It should also be noted that VOA did not produce a separate news report about President Obama’s remarks, but simply changed the headline and updated with a few new sentences its much earlier report “U.S. Trying to Verify Video Showing Journalist’s Beheading.”
Those who did not watch President Obama’s remarks live would not have learned for a considerable period of time by reading a report on the Voice of America English News website, or the vast majority of VOA foreign language news websites, what the President said earlier about the murder of Jim Foley.
The Voice of America should be the first among news organizations in reporting on significant presidential statements, especially when advance copies of such statements are made available to reporters.
In commenting on the murder of Jim Foley, Voice of America Director David Ensor said: “This is an absolutely tragic and senseless killing of an innocent man who was just doing his job.”
But VOA English News did not report on an earlier, much stronger statement by Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) chairman Jeff Shell: “Such horrific acts demonstrate utter disregard for human rights and justice.” Jeff Shell also said: “Journalists such as Mr. Foley risk everything to enlighten people around the world with the true picture of what is happening in conflict zones. Killing and threatening journalists does nothing but cover up the true story and demonstrate how brutal some of its actors are.”
VOA is overseen by the BBG. Another media entity overseen by the BBG, Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) did report on Shell’s statement, “BBG Condemns Reported Foley Killing – RFE/RL.”
Broadcasting & Cable also posted a report on Shell’s statement.
Another U.S. media industry publication, Multichannel News, also reported on Shell’s statement and noted that BBG pointed out that it has been two years almost to the day since BBG’s Alhurra TV reporter Bashar Fahmi disappeared in Aleppo in Syria.
Shell, who is chairman of Universal Filmed Entertainment in his full-time job, renewed the BBG’s call for anyone with information to come forward regarding Fahmi’s whereabouts. VOA English News did not report on Shell’s request for information about the missing Alhurra TV correspondent.
Incredibly, the main VOA report on Foley (as of 6:25 PM EDT Wednesday) does not mention Alhurra’s Bashar Fahmi, even though VOA reported that “Syria is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for journalists, according to the U.S.-based Committee to Protect Journalists: about 20 journalists still are missing in Syria, and many are believed to be held by militants.” VOA quoted CPJ advocacy director Courtney Radsch as telling VOA that Syria is “an incredibly important conflict that they are literally risking their lives for.”
Alhurra’s Bashar Fahmi is also not mentioned in the in the VOA report’s quotes from VOA Director David Ensor’s statement on the murder of Jim Foley. Ensor’s full statement has not been posted on the VOA public relations website as of 6:30 PM EDT Wednesday.
A search of the VOA English News website has not produced any results for “Bashar Fahmi” for the last month.
These searches are not always completely accurate, but it seems to us incredible that the U.S. Government, including the White House and the State Department, the Broadcasting Broad of Governors (BBG) and the BBG Chairman have been making repeated appeals for information about the missing Alhurra TV correspondent, but the BBG’s main international broadcaster, the Voice of America, appears not to have bothered to report more frequently online on its news website on these more recent appeals for information for nearly two years despite VOA’s worldwide reach in English and in many other languages.
A Google search produced only one recent brief mention of Bashar Fahmi, not on the VOA’s main English News website with its worldwide readership, but in an April 2014 statement from the VOA Director posted on the VOA public relations website.
It appears from a search of the VOA English News website that the last VOA news report about Alhurra’s Bashar Fahmi missing in Syria and attempts to find him was nearly two years ago, in November 2012. The U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America should have done much better.
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