Open Letter to Members of House Appropriations Committee
Dear Members of Congress:
This letter is to request your strong support to restore the funding in the FY2013 Budget for Voice of America (VOA) radio and television broadcasting to China and Tibet.
We adamantly object to the proposal by the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which manages the Voice of America, and their plans to eliminate the VOA Tibetan Radio Service, the entire VOA Cantonese Service, as well as eliminating more than 200 positions and reducing information coverage in Afghanistan, Albania, Bangladesh, Burma, Cambodia, Cuba, Georgia, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Laos, Russian Federation, Turkey and Vietnam. The Voice of America English and Spanish services are also threatened with severe cuts in broadcast operations and staff. The Caucasus region, including Chechnya, and Central Asia are likewise targeted by the BBG’s plan for unprecedented program cuts and reductions.
This egregious effort to disappropriate funding from VOA will effectively undermine the purpose of several Congressional mandates, including Public Law 94-350, which requires the Voice of America to inform the people in China who speak Cantonese by providing them with news broadcasts that promote freedom and democracy. There are more than 70 million people in China who speak Cantonese, including in the critical economic hubs of Hong Kong as well as Quangdong province and this effort to deny VOA broadcasts to them in Cantonese will isolate them from uncensored information.
This campaign against the Voice of America – during PRC Vice President Xi Jinping’s week-long visit to the United States – is nothing less than another attempt to concede that, little by little, the Broadcasting Board of Governors will dismantle America’s commitment to broadcast news on behalf of the United States not only to China but to other strategic areas of the world.
The VOA Tibetan Service was created by an Act of Congress, Public Law 101-246, sponsored by Rep. Dante B. Fascell and signed into law on February 16, 1990, “to provide Voice of America Tibetan language programming to the people of Tibet.” Less than one year ago, the Voice of America was celebrating the importance of Tibetan radio broadcasts, marking the 20th anniversary of the first VOA Tibetan radio program.
This campaign against Voice of America also comes during the detention of hundreds of Tibetans into Laogai (re-education through labor camps) upon their return from India after attending teaching sessions overseen by the Dalai Lama. It comes while Tibetan Buddhist Monks are sacrificing themselves as human torches to shock the conscience of the world as the only way to dispel darkness and ignorance. It comes during the PRC’s ongoing crackdown on Roman Catholics, Evangelical Christians, Uyghur Muslims, Falun Gong practitioners, and all prisoners of conscience in China. It comes one week after the PRC sentenced Zhu Yufu to seven years in prison for writing a poem.
This effort to reduce Voice of America, Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Radio and TV Marti and broadcasting to the Middle East also comes during a time when the Broadcasting Board of Governors has entered into a $50 million dollar multi-year contract with the Gallup Organization. It is doubtful that Gallup or any company can successfully conduct a reliable audience research about Voice of America and other US Government-funded broadcasts into countries like China, Russia, Iran and Cuba. People are too afraid to even admit that they know what these broadcasts are, much less tell a stranger that they are consumers of these news and information programs, which their governments tell them are dangerous and designed to destroy their nations.
What these broadcasts in fact provide is uncensored news and hope. And yet the Broadcasting Board of Governors, known for its lack of transparency and the poorest record of management among all federal agencies, again plans to divert valuable resources away from programs serving information needs of the most oppressed into unproductive operations and bureaucratic positions, while also eliminating jobs of journalists who specialize in human rights reporting.
We urge you to require that the FY 2013 Budget funding for the Voice of America’s Cantonese Service and the Tibetan Radio Service be restored, and to undo the proposed cuts in other news and information services so that Voice of America can continue to fulfill its mandate to provide an accurate, balanced and comprehensive view of significant American thought and institutions and to clearly present the policies of the United States to the people of China, Tibet and other news-restricted nations.
Harry Wu, Laogai Research Foundation
Ann Noonan, Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting
Ted Lipien, Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting
Jing Zhang, Women’s Rights in China
Robert Reilly, Senior Fellow for Strategic Communication at the American Foreign Policy Council
Timothy Shamble, American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) Local 1812
Marie Ciliberti, retired Voice of America writer, producer and broadcaster for programs directed to the former Soviet Union
Manny Papir, International Human Rights Campaigner
Robert A. Senser, Human Rights for Workers
Justin Yu, The Chinese Chamber of Commerce in New York
Ann Lau, Visual Artists Guild
Ganden Thurman, Tibet House U.S.
Gary Marco, Alexandria, VA
Jeremy Taylor, Free Burma Alliance
Reggie Littlejohn, Women’s Rights Without Frontiers
New York State Senator Reverend Ruben Diaz
Karl Altau, Managing Director, Joint Baltic American National Committee, Inc. (JBANC)