Friday 25 February 2011

Middle East crisis shows we need World Service

The NUJ is arguing that the crisis in North Africa and the Middle East demonstrates the need to preserve the BBC World Service and says it is "bizarre and inappropriate" for the British government to axe essential parts of the international broadcasting institution at this critical time.

The union says 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.

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."

Among those backing the campaign to stop World Service cuts are Mozambique-based journalist Joseph Hanlon who 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."

Easter Europe specialist 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.

"Journalists and their media outlets in Albania and Kosovo are regularly subjected to forms of harassment and physical intimidation and an end to the BBC Albanian-language service will reduce their protection and ability to report accurately and objectively about their respective country still further.

"The Serbian service has unflinchingly reported truths which have confounded nationalists and demagogues. Its demise is deeply upsetting.”
  • The NUJ has organised a public meeting to defend the BBC World Service for Tuesday 15 March in the House of Commons, committee room 14, starting at 6.30pm.

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