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ISSUE - BBG PROPOSES TO CLOSE VOA UZBEK

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which oversees all US government international broadcasts, including the Voice of America (VOA), has proposed FY 2008 cuts that would eliminate the VOA Uzbek Service. This is a blow to the war on terror and efforts to instill the principles of democracy throughout Central Asia.

PURPOSE OF PETITION

There is a strong sense that this proposal goes against U.S. foreign policy priorities and MUST be reversed. It undermines Washington's policy of active public diplomacy in Muslim countries. It ignores large long-term benefits for the United States at a low cost and through peaceful means. It eliminates the only US medium present in Uzbekistan and Central Asia that explains US policies to the audience in Uzbekistan and counters Uzbek government's efforts to spread disinformation and anti-American messages as well as those of Russian media (in Russian) and Iranian Radio Meshkhed (in Uzbek).

This petition calls for the reversal of this decision and keeping Voice of America's Uzbek Service operational.

WHY VOA UZBEK IS IMPORTANT

A look at Central Asia is a snapshot of potential volatility. Afghanistan to the south is gingerly emerging from years of civil war and the Taliban, which allowed Al-Qaeda to train and develop into an international terror organization. In Kyrgyzstan, to the east, a fragile democracy is trying to surface. In Turkmenistan, to the west, nearly two decades of cult-like rule has come to an end, but the ideas of freedom and democracy have yet to find fertile fields within the ethos of the Turkmen people. In Tajikistan, also to the east, autocratic rulers fend off any positive change. In Kazakhstan, to the north, another autocracy, enriched by oil money, ignores the needs of its own people.

Vladimir Putins Russia, in a move to revive the old empire, is bringing in millions of dollars to invest in Uzbek businesses. People watch, listen and read Russian media that promote anti-Americanism and ridicule the principles of democracy. Dozens of US-based organizations have been removed from Uzbekistan because of Americas criticism of Islam Karimov regime. Broadcasting in Uzbek from Washington represents the US commitment to freedom and peace, spreading hope to millions of people who will otherwise find it in the anti-democratic centers of Moscow and Tehran.

VOAs Uzbek Service is about the power of ideas. It is about sharing the American point of view in a very tough neighborhood, where anti-Americanism finds fertile soil and Americas friends are few and far in between. The battle for hearts and minds is fought incrementally, over time, and every person placed in democracys quiver brings that much more stability to a region usually defined in terms of negatives rather than positives. With an annual budget of $600,000, VOA Uzbek represents a small investment that can return immediate and long-term dividends for the ideas of freedom and democracy and ensure that at least one voice is speaking out to expose repression and intolerance.

In his January 11th speech, US National Intelligence Director John Negroponte said that repression, political stagnation and corruption are characteristic of regimes in the region, and create fertile conditions for radical Islamic sentiment and movements to emerge. He said this reality makes countries in the region unreliable partners for the US. Uzbekistan was home to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a terrorist group with links to Al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Uzbek fighters are still turning up in terrorist training camps in Pakistan. The Uzbekistan government routinely unleashes anti-American rhetoric while oppressing its own people, further driving them into the arms of radicalized agents.

WHAT VOA UZBEK PRODUCES AND WHO ITS AUDIENCE IS

VOA Uzbek primarily reaches Muslim audiences in Uzbekistan, the most populous Muslim country in Central Asia, with a total of 27 million. VOA broadcasts are carried on SW, medium wave from Tajikistan and two FM frequencies in Osh and Jalalabad, Kyrgyzstan. Both reach a key area of Uzbekistan, namely, the Ferghana valley, a hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism. VOAs daily 30-minute broadcasts have featured numerous high profile interviews with various U.S. and international sources discussing critical issues, such as the war against terrorism and the future of U.S. relations with Uzbekistan.

In television programming, VOA Uzbek produces a weekly 30-minute feature magazine called Exploring America, which is placed on a Kabul-based TV satellite network reaching Uzbek-speakers in Afghanistan and the rest of Central Asia and on two local stations in the Uzbek-speaking province of Osh, home to Uzbek and Kyrgyz Muslims.

WHAT VOA UZBEK OFFERS

- When US policies were questioned by President Karimov and his regime in Tashkent, VOA Uzbek provided the forum for an explanation of what the US truly hopes for the region, by interviewing key policy makers like Nicholas Burns, Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs and Richard Boucher, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asia

- When Congressional Committees called for investigations into the Andijan massacre and human rights abuses, Republican Senators John McCain and Sam Brownback, Representatives Christopher Smith and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen explained on VOA Uzbek the importance of upholding human rights and democracy, a central value to American policy in the region.

- Pegged to the State Departments annual report on religious freedom, VOA Uzbek aired two series on Islam in Central Asia and womens rights. VOA Uzbek also explored relations and tolerance between different religious groups and believers in Central Asia, as well as how Islam reflects on the lives of youth and women in the region.

- When Uzbek Muslims living in America observed their religious holidays, VOA Uzbek brought the stories of celebration that are actually examples of tolerance and hallmarks of the American way of life.

VOA UZBEK AND RFE/RL PARTNERS, NOT RIVALS

There will be those who argue that limited audiences, jamming, and the work of our sister broadcaster, RFE/RL Uzbek, reduces the need for our existence. In fact, VOA Uzbek and RFE/RL are complementary. VOA Uzbek is a full service provider of information about Central Asia, the world, and the U.S. Radio Libertys emphasis is almost exclusively on internal developments in Uzbekistan. Together, the two can be a powerful one-two punch against the autocrats, the terrorists and the miscreants who thrive in the midst of instability and insecurity. Jamming is an affirmation that our product is relevant and a threat to those who want to suppress the truth. All international Western broadcasters face a big challenge in terms of expanding their audiences. The latest research shows that VOA Uzbek leads among other international broadcasters in Central Asia. While modest, even a 4.0 percent annual audience share in these fragile environments provides a foothold for truth and cannot be ignored or underestimated.

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Latest Signatures

  • 22 December 2015150. Thomas S
    I support this petition
  • 02 December 2015149. Muhammad T
    )) Country Uzbekistan Field of work business
  • 19 November 2015148. Abbas D
    We need to save Uzbek Service of VOA Country Uzbekistan Field of work Administrative Assistant
  • 15 November 2015147. Nancy M
    can we afford to shut off communications about the outside world to those who are sleeper cells waiting to happen? Country US Field of work international law/private sector development
  • 15 November 2015146. Yusuf R
    I support this petition
  • 09 November 2015145. Evgeni D
    I support this petition
  • 08 November 2015144. Arline O
    Join us and sign this petition, which will ensure continued communication with this part of the world. Country USA Field of work Board Member, Alexandria City Council on Aging
  • 01 September 2015143. D Brock
    I support this petition
  • 11 July 2015142. Allison R
    I support this petition
  • 31 May 2015141. Pirmuhammed H
    I support this petition
  • 23 May 2015140. Galima B
    We should have more independents voices and not to cut them! Country Uzbekistan Field of work journalism
  • 17 May 2015139. Anvar S
    I support this petition
  • 16 May 2015138. Alisher K
    I support this petition
  • 25 April 2015137. Fatima M
    I support this petition
  • 16 April 2015136. Michael Anthonyl
    Having spent ten years in the region, VOA is a key factor in getting objective news to people who have little choice in media. Country United States Field of work Diplomatic
  • 29 March 2015135. Tomoko O
    I support this petition
  • 20 March 2015134. Gregory A
    I support this petition
  • 08 March 2015133. Firdevs M
    I support this petition
  • 02 March 2015132. Reddragon Young
    I support this petition
  • 06 February 2015131. Oybek I
    I support this petition
  • 30 January 2015130. Alexander Charles
    I support this petition
  • 27 January 2015129. Mark Kp
    former staffer VOA Polish Country U.S. Field of work journalism, education
  • 25 January 2015128. Bahodir Herrera
    Don't take our most truthful source away Country USA Field of work Engineer
  • 14 January 2015127. Otabek K
    I support this petition
  • 29 December 2014126. Anvar Duarte
    I support this petition
  • 21 December 2014125. Matluba K
    I support this petition
  • 14 December 2014124. Mehmet Om
    I support this petition

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Information

Emily EricksonBy:
SportIn:
Petition target:
U.S. Congress - House and Senate Appropriations Committees

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