Tenzin TethongBBG Watch has learned that a distinguished leader and scholar Tenzin Tethong was chosen as the new Tibetan Service director at Radio Free Asia (RFA). Born in Tibet, he accompanied his family to India in 1959, a few months after the Dalai Lama had arrived there from Tibet. He has been living in the United States since 1995.

The new Tibetan service director is a well-known figure among Tibetans inside Tibet and in the diaspora. He has devoted his entire career to working on issues of importance to Tibetans and is credited with helping to start Sheja, the first Tibetan educational publication in exile. He worked with Congressmen Charlie Rose and other senior staff in the U.S. government to secure the first visit of the Dalai Lama to the United States in 1979. He also has been a commentator on RFA Tibetan service programs and appeared in numerous television programs.

Radio Free Asia president Libby Liu said that she is extremely pleased that Tenzin Tethong will be leading the Tibetan Service of RFA.

“He has spent his entire life serving the Tibetan people and his integrity is above reproach.

I hope this will go a long way towards healing and provide fresh vision for serving the Tibetans Iiving in desperation,” said RFA president Libby Liu.

Tenzin Tethong is the founder of key Tibet initiatives in the U.S. including the Tibet Fund, Tibet House – New York, and the International Campaign for Tibet. He is currently a Distinguished Fellow at the Tibetan Studies Initiative, Stanford University (a program he played a key role in establishing), the President of the Dalai Lama Foundation, and Board Chair of the Committee of 100 for Tibet. In addition to serving as an advisor to the local Tibetan Community Center project, he is co-founder of the Missing Peace art exhibit and recently launched “Tibet in Exile-Fifty Years”, an online documentation effort to commemorate the last fifty years in exile of the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people.

In the early 1990s, Tenzin Tethong was Prime Minister (Kalon Tripa) of the Central Tibetan Administration based in India. In 1995, he resigned from government service for personal reasons and moved to the United States. That year, he became the Principal Advisor to the film Seven Years in Tibet and helped the Screenplay writer and the Director with the contents of the story.

In 1996, he was invited as a Visiting Scholar to teach courses in Tibetan history and contemporary politics in the History Department of Stanford University.

Tenzin Tethong played a critical role in securing the first 1,000 visas for Tibetans to immigrate the United States, Fulbright scholarship program support for Tibetan students and the creation of Voice of America’s Tibetan Service.

RFA embarked on a world-wide search for a new Tibetan service director in January of this year after the previous director left amid controversy. Ngapo Jigme, who served as director since RFA’s inception 16 years ago, was reportedly dismissed, but RFA has not disclosed any details about his departure. Longtime supporter of U.S. international broadcasting on Capitol Hill, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R – CA), expressed concern that pressure from the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamshala may have been a factor in the removal of the former Tibetan Service director, but RFA categorically denied that it was subject to any such pressure.

The U.S. taxpayer-funded broadcaster widely disseminated the posting and advertisements for the position and received a large number of resumes from all across the globe, BBG Watch has learned.

The job announcement described the “ideal candidate” as one who “would be inherently well-respected by the Tibetan community in his/her own right. This person should bring his/her own gravitas and credibility to the Service. This person needs to be a visionary and a dynamic leader who has a deep commitment to Tibetans and thorough knowledge of Tibetan culture and beliefs. The Director leads by example – motivates, inspires and nurtures mission-driven journalists to give the best they can, all the time, to Tibetans inside Tibet.”

The selection committee included several top level RFA executives and journalists. BBG Watch has learned that the committee’s selection was well received by both RFA president Libby Liu and RFA board members who are also members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the federal agency which manages U.S. international broadcasting.

Tenzin Tethong is expected to start his job as RFA’s Tibetan Service director in mid May.