BBG Watch Commentary
In a speech delivered at a largely Chinese American event in Flushing, New York organized by Beijing Spring to commemorate the 28th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) Executive Director Ann Noonan has renewed calls for a full congressional investigation of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and Voice of America (VOA) senior management in connection with the handling of the Guo Wengui interview, which produced a major drop in VOA’s reputation and credibility in China.
“It [independent congressional investigation] must also involve a call for transparency, and a careful review of any possible business dealings or investments in China of spouses or close relatives of upper management at VOA and the BBG to root out whether or not there are any possible conflicts of interest between business investments in China and the VOA Charter,” Ann Noonan said in the presence of many Tiananmen Square Massacre and former political prisoners in China who attended the anniversary event in Flushing, NY.
Wei Jingsheng, an internationally known leader in the 1978 Chinese Democracy Wall Movement, former political prisoner in China for 18 years and winner of the 1994 Olof Palme Prize and the 1996 Sakharov Prize had asked U.S. Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) to launch a completely independent investigation of the Voice of America senior management’s decisions to shorten a live interview with Chinese businessman turned whistleblower Guo Wengui.
Wei Jingsheng also spoke at the Beijing Spring event in Flushing, NY. Also speaking during the commemoration of the Tiananmen Square Massacre anniversary was a representative of the Tibetan Government in Exile.
The event was covered by VOA Mandarin Service. VOA连线: 纽约民运组织继续纪念六四
ANN NOONAN, CUSIB EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR: I think we have all heard about the Voice of America Mandarin Service interview on April 19, 2017, with Chinese billionaire, Guo Wengui. Even though this “tell all” interview was widely advertised to run for 3 hours on the Voice of America, it was abruptly cut after one hour and 17 minutes.
Even though the decision to cut this broadcast was not made by the actual journalists involved, 5 Voice of America journalists have been placed on administrative leave, pending an investigation.
One of the journalists was actually escorted out of the Cohen Building in DC by a security guard, and followed to his car to be sure that his parking permit would be returned.
The man did nothing wrong, but to the public and anyone watching, he must have looked like a criminal that he was not.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors, despite their own bloated legal and public relations departments, is said to have hired a private DC firm to help with crisis management. Where did this money come from?
Is this how US taxpayer dollars should be spent? Is this how the BBG or VOA management should conduct an independent internal investigation? Shouldn’t the actions of upper management also be investigated, and who is going to do that?
CUSIB does not consider whatever expensive investigation that may be taking place internally at the BBG and VOA about this, to be anything less than a way to interrogate and punish 5 Chinese journalists, make an example of them, and appear to Congress to be holding a real internal investigation.
To make matters even worse, the Voice of America journalists who are on administrative leave have even had to dig into their own pockets to hire their own lawyers to protect themselves.
CUSIB believes this is a crisis, and that the US Congress should not wait another day to schedule a hearing to find out what is really going on.
One call to action for today is to contact the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission or the CECC and respectfully request for either Commission to hold a hearing as soon as possible to investigate if censorship was involved, what transpired on April 19, the days that led up to the interview, and the days that followed.
This investigation must include the actions and decisions of upper management, including Voice of America Director Amanda Bennett and BBG’s CEO John Lansing.
It must also involve a call for transparency, and a careful review of any possible business dealings or investments in China of spouses or close relatives of upper management at VOA and the BBG to root out whether or not there are any possible conflicts of interest between business investments in China and the VOA Charter.
If China’s government actually influenced VOA’s decision to cut that interview, how tragic for VOA, who during the Tiananmen Square Massacre was seen as a great gift of hope for the people both inside and outside China.
CUSIB will file a Freedom of Information request with the BBG to find out where the money to hire the PR firm came from. Hopefully, we will receive more than just pages filled with redacted information.
Neither the current VOA Director Amanda Bennett nor the current CEO of the BBG John Lansing are Trump appointees. If they were, would people express outrage? Just because they are holdovers from the Obama Administration, why should they get a pass?
SEE VIDEO: 大纽约地区纪念“六四”28周年研讨会现场直播, 纪念六四28周年 [English with translation into Mandarin]
Ann Noonan is a Democrat and works for a Democratic politician in New York, but CUSIB, which she had co-founded, is a fully independent and fully nonpartisan NGO.
Voice of America director Amanda Bennett in a letter to the Editor of The Wall Street Journal defended her handling of the Guo Wengui interview and criticized VOA Mandarin Service chief Dr. Sasha Gong. Bennett was criticized in turn, also in The Wall Street Journal, by former Voice of America director Robert R. Reilly, a Republican. Reilly, who is a member of CUSIB’s Advisory Board, is one of many Republicans and Democrats who have been calling for reforming the current management of the Broadcasting Board of Governors and the Voice of America.
SEE: Former Voice of America director defends VOA China journalists, BBG Watch, June 6, 2017
At the event in Flushing, NY, Ann Noonan also spoke of the legacy of the late Laogai Research Foundation founder, Chinese human rights activist and political prisoner in China Harry Wu who died in April 2016. Harry Wu also served on the CUSIB Advisory Board. She pointed out that since shortly after his death, the Laogai Museum in Washington, DC remains closed, which no doubt pleases the communist government in Beijing. The Laogai is China’s extensive system of forced-labor prison camps.
Ann Noonan said in her speech that Harry Wu was an ardent supporter of the Tiananmen Mothers and never missed a chance to speak up for the students who gathered peacefully at Tiananmen Square to call for freedom and democracy.
Harry Wu was a highly respected figure among many members of the U.S. Congress, including House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and Congressman Frank Wolf who in May 2016 attended a memorial service for him on Capitol Hill.