By Ted Lipien
Published May 20, 2012 by Digital Journal
Blind Chinese legal activist and dissident Chen Guangcheng had been secretly listening to Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin shortwave radio broadcasts while he was in prison in China.
The Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting – CUSIB – reported that blind Chinese legal activist and dissident Chen Guangcheng, who arrived Saturday in the United States, had been secretly listening to Voice of America (VOA) Mandarin shortwave radio broadcasts while he was in prison in China. BBG Watch, an independent website published by current and former VOA employees, reported that Chen Guangcheng revealed this information in a telephone interview with the VOA Mandarin Service conducted from his hospital room in Beijing before he was allowed to leave for the United States. CUSIB issued a press release applauding Chen Guangcheng’s freedom.
In commenting on the VOA Mandarin Service interview with Chen Guangcheng, CUSIB Co-founder and Director Ted Lipien said:
“We fully support VOA Mandarin and Cantonese radio broadcasting to continue to shine the light of truth on human rights issues. We are gratified that members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) paid attention to statements in support of the Voice of America from Chen Guangcheng and human rights campaigner Annette Lantos and restored funding for VOA Cantonese broadcasts and VOA radio broadcasts to Tibet, which the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) executive staff wanted to terminate in October 2012. We were shocked to learn, however, that while Chen Guangcheng’s future was still hanging in the balance, IBB executives eliminated two hours of VOA Mandarin live radio broadcasts and replaced them with repeat programs without live newscasts. Creating a 17 hours VOA Mandarin radio news silence in China at such a critical time in U.S.-Chinese relations is inexcusable and this decision should be immediately reversed,” CUSIB Co-founder and Director Ted Lipien said.
Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R – CA) has sent a letter some of his colleagues in Congress complaining about recent changes in Voice of America Mandarin radio programs and accusing BBG and IBB executives of being less than candid with his office. Rep. Rohrabacher wrote that the Broadcasting Board of Governors is “opaque in its decision making and incredibility tone deaf to Congressional priorities,” especially on Voice of America (VOA) broadcasting to China.
But BBG Watch reported that a senior official of the BBG’s International Broadcasting Bureau dismissed Congressman Rohrabacher’s “implication” as “inaccurate.” The head of IBB is Richard Lobo, President Obama’s appointee who reports to the nine members of the BBG (there is currently one vacancy), five Democrats and four Republicans. They were also appointed by the President and confirmed by the U.S. Senate. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton serves as an ex officio member of the bipartisan Board.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors is also a U.S. federal agency that manages the Voice of America and other U.S. taxpayer-funded international news broadcasts.
Ted Lipien is a former VOA acting associate director and media freedom advocate with Free Media Online.
READ the Digital Journal op-ed in Internet Archive.