VOA Marks 70th Anniversary

Posted March 8th, 2012 at 12:25 am (UTC-5)
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(re-issuing from Wednesday to add audio links)

U.S. President Barack Obama and other prominent world figures have joined in the year-long celebration of Voice of America's 70th anniversary with messages of congratulations.

President Obama credited VOA with providing “accurate and objective” news in the face of foreign governments that censor and regimes that deny universal rights. In a video message released at an anniversary event Wednesday, he said the United States is stronger and the world more just because of VOA's efforts.

Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi said VOA's 70th anniversary is “like the birthday of a friend,” saying VOA and other broadcasting stations were the friends who kept her company during her long years of house arrest.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said VOA's Tibetan service has played a vital role for Tibetans by broadcasting unbiased news, and said he believes news organizations like VOA are “critically important.”

Created by the U.S. government during World War Two to broadcast news into territory occupied by Nazi Germany, the Voice of America has evolved into a global multimedia organization, broadcasting in more than 40 languages to an estimated weekly audience of more than 140 million.

VOA's first shortwave radio transmission, spoken in German on February 1, 1942, began with the words, “Here speaks a voice from America.” The broadcast went on to promise, “The news may be good. The news may be bad. We shall tell you the truth.”

VOA's 70th anniversary comes as the agency faces budget cuts, along with much of the rest of the federal government. Some language services face sharp staffing cuts or possible elimination.

VOA programs are delivered on television, radio, Internet and mobile platforms, with a network of about 1,200 affiliate stations around the world. In addition to more than 1,100 employees in Washington, VOA works with journalists in trouble spots around the world. Earlier this year, the Taliban claimed responsibility for the murder of a reporter working for VOA in Pakistan.