Ann Noonan, Executive Director for the independent and nonpartisan NGO Committee for U.S. International Broadcasting (CUSIB – cusib.org) spoke at the open BBG board meetingin Washington, DC on Wednesday, August 30, 2017, about the VOA Guo Wengui interview incident and again called for both congressional and Office of Inspector General (OIG) investigations.
CUSIB has a strong message today: Don’t cut VOA Cantonese Services. The democracy and freedom of press situation in Hong Kong is much worse than last year. For the first time in several decades, political prisoners are being sentenced and put in jail in HK, people in HK need to know from the US government about our position and support.
VOA’s soft power represents the American people and our government. For a long time, people in HK have relied upon VOA’s daily radio broadcasting and weekly TV program. These need to expand, especially the TV program. Since the Service Chief retired on July 1, VOA Cantonese needs to hire a new service chief ASAP.
CUSIB re-emphasizes the need for Congress to hold immediate hearings and investigate the mismanagement of the BBG and VOA prior to, during and following the interview that took place on April 19th, of Chinese billionaire turned whistleblower, Guo Wengui, which was abruptly cut during a widely publicized live interview.
We further request for the State Department’s Office of Inspector General to investigate all parties concerned with that incident, including VOA’s top management. We also call for an investigation by a law enforcement agency to find out if China has been able to exercise its influence within VOA, especially the East Asia and Pacific Division. These investigations must include any profits and investments that may have resulted from any possible conflicts of interest by anyone in BBG or VOA management, their spouses, or any BBG Governors.
Out of the 5 senior VOA Mandarin Service journalists who were placed on administrative leave 4 months ago, 4 remain on administrative leave with no hope of returning to work. Despite the fact that none have been charged with wrongdoing, they are still paying for their own attorneys to represent them. Is it true that VOA handed out personal information about these employees to an investigation company with a foreign national in China?
In response to reports about one VOA reporter who wore a white flower, like this one, on April 20, and who was interrogated by BBG Human Resources for wearing the flower, we urge all BBG Governors to insist that BBG and VOA management discontinue any and all intimidating practices against their workers. This includes intimidating staff at meetings.
CUSIB remains concerned about the selection of the last 2 Acting Service Chiefs of Mandarin Services since May 1. Do either of these men even speak Mandarin? Is it true that at least one story that was to be aired and could not unless there was a pro-China expert on the show to balance out the story? Is this the new rule? Can you imagine anyone at VOA insisting that the Tiananmen Square Massacre story could not be aired unless they had a pro-China expert to defend their nation’s goals?
To echo the words of the late CUSIB Board Member, Harry Wu: “We all want a peaceful and prosperous China that respects human rights, because this will benefit both China and America.”
VOA should realize that in recent months, China’s government has strengthened its control of speech and the Internet. They have asked major computer companies, including Microsoft and Apple to restrict and remove virtual private networks.
Does VOA realize the consequences of China’s control of its ethnic minorities, especially in the Xingjiang Urumqi Autonomous Region? Those residents now must bring their computers, hard drives, mobile phones and other devices to the police for inspection or they will be punished.