Voices from the Field: André de Nesnera

André de Nesnera in the VOA news room, Washington, D.C.

“In 1986 I was in East Berlin, on my way to a meeting with the International Olympic Committee (IOC).   I met a Canadian man, Jim Worrall, who was attending the meeting as part of the Canadian delegation to the IOC.  Worrall also attended the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin 50 years earlier as Canada’s flag bearer. The 1936 Olympics was the Olympics that Hitler used to promote the Third Reich.  This was the Olympics in which Jesse Owens competed as an African American man in Nazi Germany.

1936 Berlin Olympics, photo courtesy of German Federal Archive (Deutsches Bundesarchiv) as part of a cooperation project.

I took Worrall back to the stadium in West Berlin, the original stadium that was used in 1936. We went, and he started to reminisce. He pointed out where Hitler stood during the opening ceremony, and he talked about what it felt like to be in Germany at the time, before the war began. He was emotional, and there were tears.  It was a stream-of-consciousness and quite remarkable.  I had a small tape recorder at the time.  I turned it into a radio story.  It was really well-received because it was such a unique story. I’d trade top-notch interviews for moments like that.”


André de Nesnera is an award-winning journalist that has worked as a reporter for Voice of America for more than three decades in Europe and domestically in the United States.  In 2002, U.S. Foreign Service officers honored de Nesnera with the Tex Harris Award for Constructive Dissent for resisting political pressure from State Department spokesman Richard A. Boucher and other U.S. officials after VOA ran excerpts of a 2001 interview with Mullah Mohammed Omar, a Taliban leader at the time. The story also earned de Nesnera a Payne Award for Ethics in Journalism from the University of Oregon.  He currently serves as a Senior Correspondent at VOA.

Voices from the Field: Tarek Elshamy

Tarek Elshamy reporting from Tahrir Square

“During the dangerous days of covering the 25 January revolution, international journalists were under attack and Alhurra was no exception. A mob stormed Alhurra’s Cairo news office where all our team was camped out reporting on the always changing events minute by minute. It was believed that Mubarak’s regime was trying to stop transmission of TV channels that gained credibility during the revolution. While we were on air a mob tried to storm the office and tried to scare the team. Most of the team climbed out onto the balcony and jumped across to the roof of a hotel that was next door to escape. However, we stayed on the air. I tried to prevent the mob from coming into the offices, but they did get in and went on to steal some equipment and threatened to attack us again if we continued our coverage. However, we were not deterred and continued our nonstop coverage as usual. I also told the story on air to let everyone know that we will not be intimidated.

Alhurra’s coverage of the Egyptian revolution was one of the only places that Egyptian viewers could turn to watch the events as they happened without bias. A phone survey of Egyptians in Cairo and Alexandria showed that 25 percent of the respondents had watched Alhurra during that time as a source of news and information about the revolution.”

Tarek Elshamy is the Cairo News Bureau Chief and Chief Correspondent. He is the host of  “Hiwar Cairo,” a weekly program in Cairo, Egypt that examines the  political and social aspects of the country on the Alhurra network.  The program hosts a wide range of figures, including state ministers, heads of political parties, presidential candidates and others. El Shamy has received awards from the London based Association of International Broadcasting (AIB) as well as the David Burke Award for the distinguished coverage of the Egyptian Revolution.

TV Martí Celebrates its 23rd Anniversary

TV Martí celebrates its 23rd anniversary today, marking another great year of programming in the of promotion democratic values in Cuba and Latin America. TV Martí was established to complement the work of Radio Martí and began broadcasting on March 27, 1990.

Guillermo Santa Cruz, general manager of Radio and TV Martí, celebrated the event with a new episode of Avanza Cuba aptly entitled “”La prensa en una sociedad libre y el futuro del periodismo en Cuba” (The press in a free society and the future of journalism in Cuba). He firmly believes in the work of TV Martí and states that it is helping to encourage civil society and freedom of expression in Cuba.

Guests join Atena Live live in Washington, D.C.


“There are a lot of the changes taking place, and people in Cuba are losing their fear. They are being more assertive about their rights and about expressing themselves. We interview a lot of people who have taken a stand and are speaking out- people like Yoani Sánchez and others who are engaging in independent journalists. This constitutes progress.  This is the heart of our mission and the heart of what we do.”

Together, with Radio Martí, TV Martí provides information resources and unbiased news coverage to communities in Cuba, giving an alternative view to Cuban media that is highly censored by the state.


“TV Martí is really establishing itself as a well-respected news organization.  This is thanks to the hard work we directed towards rebranding and redesigning it over the last 3 years. The programming is relevant for people in Cuba. It is the kind of content that can be made available on many platforms. We consistently work on improvement at TV Martí.”

This past year has been especially noteworthy for TV Martí as its YouTube channel attracted unprecedented numbers of viewers seeking information about the return of a customs duty tax on food entering Cuba in July 2012, it covered the 2012 Republican and Democratic conventions live in August and September 2012, provided coverage on the death of Cuban opposition leader Oswaldo Payá in September 2012, and broadcast comprehensive details about the death of Hugo Chavez and reaction from the Venezuelan diaspora in Doral, Florida on Antena Live in March 2013.  In a new tactic to integrate voices from Cuba  in real time,  Avanza Cuba also featured guests in Havana, Cuba live via Skype on its episode entitled “Tu Negocio en la RED” (Your business on the Web) in February 2013.

It was also a year of recognition for TV Martí.  Estado de SATS, created, produced, and presented by Antonio Rodiles, was nominated for an Emmy Award in October 2012.  The show, which airs weekly, tackles the realities and challenges faced by Cubans is made in Cuba with wrap-around segments produced in Miami.  Hacia La Democracia, a how-to guide for democratic transition was also nominated as was Antena Live and 7 N 30 for their audio design. These programs are great examples of TV Martí’s commitment to its mission of bringing quality, unbiased news and information to the Cuban people.


“We know people are watching. We receive very positive feedback. Recently, TV Martí attended an airshow own in the Florida Keys. People stopped by and asked about the shows and the on-air personalities. This is proof we are getting through and that we are making a difference.”

Senior management at Cuba, including Santa Cruz (far right) meet to discuss staging

By Roxanne Bauer

VOA Persian Celebrates Norouz

Voice of America’s Persian Service hosted a luncheon yesterday to celebrate Norouz, the annual holiday that marks the Persian New Year as well as the first day of spring.

Guests from all over the agency joined in the festivities.

Norouz is about new beginnings and reaching out to others. It’s inclusive and is a time to celebrate for everyone.  Not only is it the Persian New Year but the first day of spring.  It comes at a time when people are looking for renewal and rebirth.  The historical and cultural traditions of Norouz reflect that.

Mora Namdar, Producer and Special Assistant focusing on National Security and Policy

This year, the staff wanted to celebrate Norouz with everyone, not just inside the Persian Service.  They wanted to invite the whole house.  When I was asked, I thought ‘To quote David Ensor…why not?’  They were all very excited.  This is a great holiday, and they rallied at the chance to share it.  They worked hard to raise funds for the event.

Billy Otwell, General Manager of VOA Persian


A staff member from VOA’s Persian Service hands out drinks for the Norouz celebration

Somali Journalist, Nuxurkey, killed in Mogadishu Suicide Car bombing

A moment of silence observed for Mohamed Ali Nuxurkey

A moment of silence was observed today at BBG headquarters, to honor the life of Somali journalist Mohamed Ali Nuxurkey, who was killed Monday in a suicide car bombing in Mogadishu, Somalia. City officials say at least 10 people, including the reporter, were killed in the blast, which happened near the National Theater.  Nuxurkey worked for VOA’s bureau in Nairobi, Kenya, sending sound bites on breaking news from Somalia for radio reports.  He was not on assignment for VOA when he was killed.

A police spokesman, Abdullahi Hassan Bariise, informed VOA’s Somali Service that the suicide bomber was targeting a car transporting the city’s security chief and several other intelligence officials, but instead hit a mini-bus. Several schoolchildren in the mini-bus and bystanders on the sidewalk, including Nuxurkey, were killed by the blast.

The militant group al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the explosion. Mogadishu has been trying to return to normal since al-Shabab was driven out  in 2011, but militants still carry out periodic suicide attacks and kidnappings.

Nuxurkey joined VOA in November, and was working with the agency to improve his English and scriptwriting in the hope of becoming a stringer in Mogadishu.  He also worked as a producer for Radio Muqbal and was previously employed by Radio Kulmiye as well as Horn Afrik TV and Radio. Colleagues have called him smart, ambitious, professional and a pleasure to work with.  He is survived by a wife and a child.


You can read more about Nuxurkey at VOANews.com



Bush Fellows visit BBG Headquarters


Bush Fellows Women’s Initiative participants engage in a panel discussion at BBG

Nineteen young women from Egypt visited the BBG headquarters on Tuesday, March 19, as a part of the Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative. The group attended a panel discussion with BBG managers and journalists and discussed issues such as access to information, the role of international broadcasting in encouraging that access, and how the press contributes to civil society.


Cecily Hilleary (right), Letitia King (center) and Fran Mires (left) discuss issues women leaders face

The panelists included Letitia King, Director of Public Affairs for BBG who served as the event’s moderator; Cecily Hilleary, Senior VOA Reporter and Associate Editor of Middle East Voices; and Fran Mires, Executive Producer of Al Youm, Rayheen ala Feen? and Street Pulse at Middle East Broadcasting Networks.  The program focused on two main topics: the role of a free press, and the communication and leadership skills required by women in the media.  Accordingly, they fielded questions about challenges they faced as women in the workplace, balancing work and home lives, and what advice they could provide for future women leaders.

The 19 young women chosen to participate in the program represent six influential sectors in society including health, media, rule of law, education, politics, and business.  They came as part of the 2013 Bush Institute’s Women’s Initiative Fellowship program that was developed to enhance women’s leadership skills around the world with an initial focus on women in the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to enhanced leadership skills, participants also exchange ideas and expertise, empowering them to become a force for change in their home countries and creating a supportive women’s network.


John Houseman: First Director of VOA

John Houseman was a film and radio star whose 50-year media career included masterpieces in the golden age of film, the second golden age of television with “The Paper Chase” and one of the most famous radio broadcasts in American history, “The War of the Worlds.”

Lesser known in America, but even more important is that Houseman was the first director of the Voice of America. He didn’t make it to the Internet Age but his role in the creation of a news and information radio service directed at the people of the Axis countries left a lasting legacy at the now 71-year old VOA. Alan L. Heil, in Voice of America, describes Houseman as one of the early individuals “that forged the soul of Voice of America.”

But it wasn’t an easy job. The beginning of World War II didn’t go so well for the United States. The December 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor led to the conquest of Burma, the Philippines, the Dutch East Indies and Singapore as well as the near destruction of shipping in the Atlantic. Things looked bleak but VOA stood by its principles to tell foreign audiences the facts, honestly and objectively. At the 40th anniversary of Voice of America, Houseman himself remarked, “…we would have to report our reverses without weaseling. Only thus could we establish a reputation for honesty that we hoped would pay off on that distant but inevitable day when we would start reporting our own invasions and victories.”

Walter Roberts, now 97, who started work in 1942 for VOA’s Austrian service, agreed. He echoed the first VOA broadcast in an interview earlier this year: “The news may be good for us. It may be bad. But we shall always tell the truth. That was very important to all of us.”

That tradition lives on today.

“The journalistic integrity and reputation for honest reporting that John Houseman brought to the Voice of America as its first director in 1942 are part of the foundation upon which VOA was built,” said David Ensor, current Director of VOA, “and led to what it is today: one of the most widely respected international news organizations in the world.”

Though “War of the Worlds” lives on in radio legend while “The Paper Chase” only survives in the bargain bin of niche video stores, Voice of America is Houseman’s most important and most enduring legacy. Today VOA broadcasts accurate and reliable news to 134 million people in 45 languages, which makes it worthy of being called a masterpiece.

By Blake Stilwell