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Published:March 4th, 2008 12:30 EST
Iranians sentence journalist Parnaz Azima

Iranians sentence journalist Parnaz Azima

By SOP newswire

The Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) condemns the Iranian government`s baseless sentencing of RFE/RL journalist Parnaz Azima to one year in prison for "spreading anti-state propaganda."

"Tried and convicted in absentia, Ms. Azima has done nothing more than report the news," said James K. Glassman, Chairman of the BBG, which oversees all non-military U.S. international broadcasting. He observed that, Azima`s case is another example of repression and violence against journalists doing their jobs around the world." He noted that last year, four BBG correspondents were killed in the Middle East and Central Asia and several were taken hostage. "Americans should know that this is the high price their journalists are paying to promote the values of a free, accurate, unbiased press in some of the toughest environments in the world."

Azima works for Radio Farda, a joint venture of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and the Voice of America. These organizations are among the entities that broadcast in 60 languages under the direction of the Broadcasting Board of Governors to an overseas audience of 155 million people.

Azima, a citizen of both Iran and the U.S., returned to work with Radio Farda in Prague after spending eight months in Iran against her wishes in 2007. She now faces a stark choice ? return to Iran to serve the sentence, or forfeit the deed to her 95-year-old mother`s home in Tehran, which was turned over to the Iranian Judiciary in lieu of 510 million toomans ($550,000) in bail.

Deputy U.S. State Department Press Secretary Tom Casey called the ruling "a gross miscarriage of justice."

In the context of the recent general crackdown on all forms of criticism by the government of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, RFE/RL President Jeffrey Gedmin said "there is a clear trend of targeting and harassing employees of Radio Farda, and I am concerned about where this is heading."

Radio Farda broadcasts in the Persian language via radio and the Internet 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Voice of America`s Persian News Network broadcasts seven hours daily on television by satellite to Iran.

The Broadcasting Board of Governors is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported, non-military international broadcasting, including the Voice of America (VOA); Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL); the Middle East Broadcasting Networks (Alhurra TV and Radio Sawa); Radio Free Asia (RFA); and the Office of Cuba Broadcasting (Radio and TV Mart?). Through its broadcast services, the BBG provides the United States and its leaders direct and immediate access to a worldwide audience of 155 million people. Current governors are Chairman James K. Glassman, Joaquin F. Blaya, Blanquita W. Cullum, D. Jeffrey Hirschberg, Edward E. Kaufman, and Steven J. Simmons. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is an ex officio member.

For more information, call the Office of Public Affairs at (202) 203-4959, or e-mail publicaffairs@voa.gov.



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