Monday, June 06, 2011

Silencing VOA: why should U.S. aid China's censors?

Ann Noonan, president of the Visual Artists Guild’s New York chapter, gave a speech at the New York City June 4th Tiananmen Square Commemoration held at the UN's Dag Hammarskjold Park. Here is an edited version of her remarks.

Young people throughout the world, like the young people who risked their lives 22 years ago in Tiananmen Square, are risking their lives today for basic human rights, freedom, and the right to participate in governing themselves. They look to the United States for inspiration. Their stories deserved to be shared.

Voice of America (VOA) operates under a Congressional mandate to provide news broadcasts that promote freedom and democracy from the United States to the world. Yet in its budget request for the next fiscal year, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees VOA, proposes to end its radio and television broadcasts to China. This is not part of a budget cut, but rather a reallocation away from Cantonese and Mandarin language services in a budget that is actually higher than last year’s.

Today as we commemorate the 22nd Anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre, a day in history when the world watched students in China who sought freedom be cut down, killed, jailed and exiled, I’d like to ask each of you to contact Members of Congress about plans that will censor Voice of America’s Chinese services as of October 1st.

This campaign against VOA is insidious. It comes during China’s suppression of stories on dissident artist Ai Weiwei and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Liu Xiaobo. It comes during a media crackdown in China against any stories about the blind lawyer Chen Guangcheng and other prisoners of conscience. It comes during a time when China’s media has blocked news about uprisings in Egypt and Libya.

Why should a nation as large and vast as China, which already has to endure an oppressive Internet censorship, be made to suffer from U.S. bureaucratic changes that will hide the struggles of the young people in China who seek religious freedom and democracy?

Our Members of Congress need to reject the Broadcasting Board of Governors’ proposal to eliminate VOA’s Chinese language services. We must maintain Voice of America’s broadcasts and continue to transmit our ideals of freedom.

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