RFA in the News (December 2017)



Dec. 31 “2017 in review: Cambodia’s tumultuous year

… Like the Dailymore than a dozen radio stations were shut down for selling airtime to Radio Free Asia, Voice of America, Voice of Democracy and the CNRP. US-funded RFA and VOA were also warned about tax payments and licensing issues, with the former saying it was unviable to continue its in-country operations. It continues to report on the Kingdom from Washington, DC. In November, two former RFA reporters, Oun Chhin and Yeang Sothearin, were charged with “espionage” for allegedly setting up a radio production studio to send news reports to RFA. The pair and RFA have denied the accusation. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years in prison. Earlier in the year, Australian filmmaker James Ricketson was also arrested and slapped with espionage charges after flying a drone at an opposition campaign rally.


Dec. 29 “North Korean nuclear scientist poisons himself after China sends him back, report says

… The man, said to be in his 50s, worked at the physics center of the State Academy of Sciences in Pyongyang, an anonymous source told Radio Free Asia on Thursday.


Dec. 29 “Ex-Beehive leader Sonando called in Kem Sokha case

… During the recent government crackdown on the opposition, civil society and media outlets, Sonando’s Beehive Radio was asked to stop airing Radio Free Asia and Voice of America programming, purportedly because the station had failed to report those airtime sales to the Information Ministry. Numerous other stations airing RFA and VOA were abruptly shuttered.


Dec. 28 “Switzerland lists 16 N. Korean individuals, organization for sanctions

The Swiss government has listed 16 North Korean individuals and one North Korean organization for sanctions according to Washington-based Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 28 “Tibetan Political Prisoner Escapes to California

… Wangchen served out his sentence and was released from prison in 2014, but he was forced to live under harsh restrictions and was barred from leaving Tibet, a relative told Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 27 “Countries enforce sanctions to cut off North Korea's cash flow

… In line with the latest United Nations Resolution 2397 passed last week, Switzerland added 16 North Korean individuals and one organization to its sanctions list, Radio Free Asia said Wednesday.


Dec. 27Don't Call “Xi the Bun” — Chinese Netizens Are Being Jailed for Chatroom Jokes

[Photo caption:] When Wang Jiang Feng joked about calling China's president “Xi the Bun”, he was sentenced to 22 months in jail. Image remix from Radio Free Asia's photo via Apple Daily News.

YONHAP (Also in KBS)

Dec. 27 “N. Korean disabled ski team to train in Germany next month: report

… Shin Young-soon, head of the U.S. civic group the Kinsler Foundation, told the U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia that North Korean disabled skiers will engage in a winter training session at a ski slope near Frankfurt in mid-January.


Dec. 26 “Court upholds decision to deny bail for RFA duo

The Appeal Court yesterday upheld a decision by the Phnom Penh Municipal Court earlier this month to deny bail for two formerRadio Free Asia reporters accused of “espionage”, with the pair’s lawyer calling the decision unfair.


Dec. 25 “How democracy died in Cambodia

… An independent American-owned newspaper was closed in September while radio stations were prevented from broadcasting popular Radio Free Asia and Voice of America programs. Two former RFA reporters were later arrested for alleged espionage after the station shuttered its bureau under heavy government pressure in September. The arrests, based on the notion sending information to overseas news outlets constituted espionage, had a chilling effect on all media.


Dec. 25 “Myanmar to grant families access to two Reuters journalists after remand period expires: media

… “After the first remand (expires), they will be able to meet their families. They will be sent to the court for testimonies,” Tin Myint, permanent secretary of Ministry of Home Affairs, was quoted as saying by Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 23 “Aung San Suu Kyi once called for a free press. Now, the dead are used for fake news

[Photo caption:] ‘The day after Shuna Mya was found dead, someone representing the state counsellor posted a photo of a headless body on the office’s Facebook page.’ Photograph: Radio Free Asia


Dec. 23 “The Real-World Consequences of 'Fake News'

… Within hours, a government spokesman in Cambodia, where the press is heavily restricted, approvingly cited that decision in vowing to shut down any media outlets—including the U.S.-funded broadcasters Radio Free Asia and Voice of America—that disturbed the country’s stability.”


Dec. 22 “Lawyers summoned over lawsuit against ex-unionist

… It accuses Mr Mony, a member of the Watch Council of Cambodia and former president of the Free Trade Union, of appealing to the EU to stop ordering clothes from Cambodia in an interview with the US-based Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 21 “Drone-flying Vietnamese journalist sentenced to 7 years

The last text message novice Vietnamese journalist Nguyen Van Hoa sent was to his editor at U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia on Jan. 10. “Yes, What’s up?” he asked.

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Dec. 19 “An Artist Painted a Mural Honoring Jailed Dissident Liu Xiaobo at a Biennale in China. Then He Was Arrested.

… Chinese writer Ye Du, a friend of Liu’s widow Liu Xia, told Radio Free Asia that he believes the couple is being held due to the artwork’s political content, but that he could not be sure.


Dec. 19 “North Korea's only 3G network provider to withdraw services

… Radio Free Asia reported last year that Orascom had earned $653 million in the North, over the stretch of seven years but international sanctions blocked the company from accessing its gains.


Dec. 19 “Pro-government unions slam calls for sanctions

… One-hundred-and-twenty union leaders filed a complaint to the Phnom Penh Municipal Court against former Free Trade Union leader Chea Mony, who asked the EU and US to halt imports from Cambodia in an interview with Radio Free Asia on Friday.


Dec. 18 “How China leads a campaign of censorship and intimidation throughout the West

… Three years ago, Chinese authorities began arresting family members of Shohret Hoshur, an American journalist with Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 18 “Chinese artist posted video of police threat online

… Yesterday Radio Free Asia reported that he had been held in the neighbouring city of Tianjin.


Dec. 18 “RTHK, Radio Taiwan International win at the AIBs

… Radio Free Asia’s My Son, I’s So Sorry!!! was highly commended by the jury in the same category. It told the stories of North Korean mothers who have left their children behind as they defected to South Korea through China.


Dec. 16 “North Korea 'to launch another ballistic missile this weekend as it marks death of Kim Jong-un's dad'

It could carry out another nuclear test before completing its nuclear weapons programme, a source recently told Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 15 “Bah, Humbug! Chinese University Bans Celebrating Christmas

… Also in 2014, the education bureau in Wenzhou City in China’s eastern province of Zhejiang, issued a directive ordering all schools and kindergartens in the region not to hold Christmas events, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).


Dec. 13 “US says more sanctions on table in response to political crackdown

Meanwhile, the Kingdom has seen a parallel clampdown on civil society and the free press in recent months, with the government expelling the US-funded National Democratic Institute, stepping up its scrutiny of NGOs and shuttering or severely curtailing the operations of numerous independent media outlets, including US-backed Radio Free Asia and the often critical Cambodia Daily newspaper.


Dec. 13 “In China, medical neglect can amount to a death sentence for jailed journalists

Yang, who wrote under the name Yang Tianshui, was diagnosed with tuberculosis and diabetes as early as 2009, and a brain tumor in August 2017. His family and friends pleaded repeatedly for the journalist to receive better medical care and be released on medical parole, according to Radio Free Asia's interview with Yang's sister Guixiang, and the human rights website Weiquanwang.


Dec. 11 “China’s aid a matter of life and death for Laos

… So far the rail line’s development has required the relocation of 4,400 families this year, according to a Radio Free Asiareport.


Dec. 11 “China May Be Preparing Refugee Sites in Case of a Korean War

The Chinese government may be preparing for an influx of refugees from North Korea — if, say, war breaks out on the Peninsula, according to a document obtained by Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 10 “Australia wants to reform Hun Sen – ‘It’s not going to work,’ says opposition leader

… The crackdown on the CNRP has run alongside a crackdown on independent media in the country, with the government shutting down the Cambodia Daily and arresting Cambodian journalists who had worked for Radio Free Asia.


Dec. 9 “When the Presses Stop

… The Daily was not the only organization targeted. Radio stations broadcasting Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, U.S.-backed services that provide independent news to many rural Cambodians, were shuttered, as was the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute.


Dec. 8 Harsh Prison Terms for Video Journalist and Blogger as Vietnam Cracks Down on Free Expression

… A security trainer and regular contributor to Radio Free Asia, Hoa was detained in January 2017 and initially charged with “abusing democratic rights to infringe upon the interests of the state”. The charges against him were changed in June without reason, according to his family.


Dec. 8 “Chinese boy, 13, 'decapitates mother and posts video'

… The boy killed his mother after a quarrel on Sunday night, reported Radio Free Asia, citing local sources.


Dec. 8 “‘It affects our feelings’: Cambodia asks US to reconsider visa restriction

As reported by Radio Free Asia, ruling Cambodian People’s Party (CPP) spokesperson Sok Ey San called on the US to rethink the restrictions, accusing the State Department of “having double standards” by contradicting what he called US President Donald Trump’s “policy of non-interference” in the affairs of sovereign states.


Dec. 7 “So long, US; howdy, Russia

… In August, Phnom Penh went on the attack against Radio Free Asia (RFA) and Voice of America (VOA), two US Congress-funded news agencies which have long been accused by the CPP government of fomenting anti-government propaganda from overseas.


Dec. 7 “The U.S. Plans to Restrict Visas For Cambodians Who Are 'Undermining Democracy'

… Authorities have shuttered radio stations that aired programming from U.S.-funded Radio Free Asia and Voice of America, whose reports they allege are biased.


Dec. 7 “Int'l Red Cross helps clear unexploded munitions in N. Korea: report

… According to Radio Free Asia, the International Red Cross said in a report on Monday the team tackling weapon contamination trained a North Korean explosive disposal group in Pyongyang.


Dec. 6 “Donald Trump’s administration is promoting democracy and human rights

… Take Cambodia, the South-East Asian country whose autocratic government charged two ex-reporters in November with “espionage”, citing their previous work for Radio Free Asia (RFA), a news outlet funded by the American government.


Dec. 5 “For Some Cambodian Refugees, Deportations And A Return To A Country They Fled

… Radio Free Asia reported that Cambodia's foreign minister, Prak Sokhon, said he'd requested, unsuccessfully, that deportees be "given job training in the U.S. before being sent home" and that the U.S. only deport people who have done so voluntarily.


Dec. 5 “North Korean citizens feeling bite of international sanctions

… Radio Free Asia reported last month that electricity costs had skyrocketed 300 to 3,000 times in the North.


Dec. 5 “Under assault: Cambodia’s independent press fights for life

… Kem Sokha’s Cambodia National Rescue Party was dissolved by the supreme court; about 20 Khmer-language radio stations that carried programmes produced by Radio Free AsiaVoice of America and Voice of Democracy have been shut down, and Radio Free Asia was itself forced to close and two of its journalists, arrested for “espionage”, face up to 15 years in prison.


Dec. 4 “Ex-RFA journos denied bail by municipal court

Two former Radio Free Asia reporters accused of “espionage” were denied bail yesterday in Phnom Penh Municipal Court, though the pair’s lawyer plans to appeal the decision.


Dec. 2 “NK's oil price dives amid sanctions: RFA

… According to the Tokyo-based Asia Press International (API) report on the North's market price index, diesel oil was sold at 6,765 North Korean won (US$0.82) per kilogram and gasoline at 15,990 won, Radio Free Asia said.