RFA in the News (September 2009)

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Sept. 30 “Lam Dong: police attack Buddhist temple, expel 400 monks and nuns

Hundreds of police agents and government thugs attacked a Buddhist monastery in Lam Dong province, in the central highlands of Vietnam.

… “They beat us brutally, yelling at us curse words. They torn up our clothes in order to humiliate us, smashing everything within their reach,” said Buddhist monk Thich Phap Tu in an interview with Radio Free Asia (RFA).


Sept. 29 “Jeffrey Gedmin: Boombox U.S.A.”

… Today, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) broadcasts to 20 countries, from Russia and the Caucasus to Central Asia and the Middle East. RFE/RL's broadcast region encompasses Afghanistan, Iran, and Iraq, and will soon include Pakistan. Its sister company, Radio Free Asia, reaches nine countries, including Burma, China, and North Korea. Traditional radio programming is augmented with content delivered online, by video, and on television. Although the technology has changed, the mission of surrogate broadcasting is still the same. It remains one of the most effective and cost-efficient programs the United States can support in order to promote democracy and advance U.S. national security interests.


Sept. 28 “N. Korean leader prefers ‘socialism’ to ‘communism’: official”

North Korean leader Kim Jong-il has expressed his will to bolster socialism in his nation, explicitly referring to it over communism which he said was realistically difficult to attain, a North Korean official was quoted as saying Monday.

Radio Free Asia, a Washington-based broadcaster, reported last week that the new constitution refers instead to the “songun (military-first)” policy of the leader Kim Jong-il, an apparent bid to give more legitimacy to Kim's rule.


Sept. 27 “Google, Yahoo hurt by China’s Internet crackdown”

The Chinese regime’s heavy internet crackdown has not only blocked hundreds of millions of Chinese netizens from accessing information on the web freely, it has also undermined the confidence of foreign investors in China’s internet market.

… According to a previous report by Radio Free Asia (RFA), when the Chinese regime launched a highly publicized anti-pornography campaign in June to introduce its internet-filtering software Green Dam-Youth Escort, Google.cn (Google China) was harshly criticized by the regime for providing easy access to pornography and indecent information.


Sept. 26 “N.Korean Parliament Boosts Kim Jong-il's Powers”

North Korea's Supreme People's Assembly in April deleted the word “communism” from the constitution and replaced it with the term “Songun” or military-first ideology. It was the first constitutional revision in 11 years. Radio Free Asia reported the change Thursday quoting sources in Japan familiar with North Korean affairs.


Sept. 25 “New NKorea charter seen to boost Kim's authority”

South Korea is analysing changes to North Korea's constitution which apparently strengthen the authority of leader Kim Jong-Il, an official said Friday. … Radio Free Asia said Thursday the revisions made in April to the communist state's charter seem to bolster Kim's rule.


Sept. 25 “Seoul analyzing N. K.’s revised constitution”

Seoul is analyzing North Korea's constitution, which is believed to have been revised earlier this year to bolster the authority of the country's leader Kim Jong-il, the government said Friday, according to Yonhap News.

Radio Free Asia reported Thursday that the Supreme People’s Assembly of North Korea revised the country’s constitution in April, apparently further strengthening the legitimacy of leader Kim's rule by dropping the use of the term “communism” and replacing it with “songun,” or military-first policy, for the first time in the constitution.


Sept. 25 “Tea Banh praises welcome in US”

Defence Minister Tea Banh said he received a “much warmer” welcome from the United States government on his recent trip to the country than on his first visit in 1995, but confirmed that the US remains concerned about allegations of human rights violations committed by military units and addressed at a congressional hearing earlier this month.
Responding to a question from a Radio Free Asia reporter, Tea Banh said he was aware visa restrictions were in place but denied the allegations against the units in question, saying he considered the letter’s claims to be “all false”.


Sept. 25 “US Reviewing Food Aid Resumption to NK”

A Korean Peninsula Affair expert at the U.S. Congressional Research Service says that the U.S. government is running a working-level task force to review the resumption of food aid to North Korea. Mark Manyin told U.S.-based Radio Free Asia that the U.S. government has plans about how it will act if North Korea hints at its serious food shortage or directly asks for food aid.


Sept. 24 “FAO: NK needs 1.8 mln tons food”

A U.N. food agency says North Korea needs to secure this year one-point-seven to one-point-eight million tons of food from outside sources due to decreased rice and corn yields. U.S.-based Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported Thursday that the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) expected the North’s rice yields for the year to be around two-point-four to two-point-six million tons, which would be similar to last year’s level.


Sept. 24 “Burma: Released prisoners tell stories of torture”

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) welcomes the release of prisoners from jails around Burma during the last week, especially human rights defenders and persons who were detained during and after the protests of August and September 2007, including numbers of persons on whose cases the AHRC has issued urgent appeals.

… Ko Bo Bo, a former student leader also known as Ko Moe Kyaw Thu, had been imprisoned on a range of charges since 1992. He told Radio Free Asia (RFA) that after his arrest he was taken to a military intelligence unit in Rangoon where he was hooded and repeatedly assaulted, denied water and refused access to a toilet.

… U Aung Myint, who was also detained after September 2007 and jailed on a two-year sentence at Myaungmya, of which he served nearly the full time, also told RFA that he and other prisoners had been tortured and had not received timely medical attention during imprisonment.


Sept. 24 “City court should spare Daily staffers: Ho Vann”

Sam Rainsy Party parliamentarian Ho Vann said he was “very happy” with his acquittal on defamation charges by Phnom Penh Municipal Court on Tuesday but urged the court to reverse its verdict against two journalists who were co-defendants in the case.

Municipal Court judge Sin Visal found Ho Vann not guilty of defamation charges, but Kevin Doyle and Neou Vannarin of The Cambodia Daily newspaper were convicted under the 1995 Press Law of not properly publishing a retraction of defamatory information. … Speaking from the United States, Ho Vann told Radio Free Asia that he was “very happy” with the result, and that he would return to Cambodia soon.


Sept. 23 “Taiwan yet to receive Rebiya Kadeer’s visa application”

Taiwan’s foreign ministry says it has yet to receive a visa application from the exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer. …The US-based Radio Free Asia reported on Tuesday that Kadeer had already accepted an invitation from the Taiwan Youth Anti-Communist Corps. If Taiwan grants a visa to Kadeer, it is likely to anger China.


Sept. 19Dangers for journalists who expose environmental issues”

… Cambodia has lost half of its primary forest in the past 15 years although millions of dollars in foreign aid have been spent on protecting the Cardamom Mountains. Three journalists received death threats when they tried to follow up reports on deforestation by the NGO Global Witness that implicated associates of Prime Minister Hun Sen in large-scale illegal logging.

Radio Free Asia, one of the few media to cover this story in detail, was threatened by a man who went to the station's bureau in Phnom Penh. And one of its reporters, Lem Piseth, had this conversation with an anonymous caller: “Is that you, Lem Piseth?” “Yes. Who are you?” “You are insolent, do you want to die?” “Why are you insulting me like this?” “Because of the business of the forest and you should know that there will not be enough land to bury you.” Piseth fled across the border into Thailand.


Sept. 17 “Fujian parents protest new lead poisoning outbreak”

Another outbreak of lead poisoning has been reported in China—this time in an industrial district of Fujian Province. Radio Free Asia reports that since last Friday, parents in Jiaoyang County have gathered at a local battery factory.


Sept. 16 “Adhoc activist, reporter receive lawsuit threat from R’kiri judge”

A Ratanakkiri provincial judge has warned that rights activist Pen Bonnar and journalist Ratha Visal could face disinformation charges relating to a land dispute in the province, a day after the UN’s human rights office called for the government to end its “harassment” of rights activists in the province. Ratha Visal also came under similar pressure from the court after covering the Pen Bonnar affair for Radio Free Asia.


Sept. 16 “A ‘Blue Dam’ for Chinese Internet providers”

The Chinese Communist Party recently introduced a new tool, the “Blue Dam” monitoring software, in an effort to strengthen control over public opinion before the regime’s 60th anniversary on Oct. 1.

… Chairman Charles Mok of the Internet Society’s Hong Kong chapter told Radio Free Asia, “This is mainly targeting Internet service providers and webpage hosts. Though not publicly announced, everyone knows about it.”


Sept. 16 “Top NK, Chinese officials make mutual visit”

Radio Free Asia says that Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Dai Bingguo visited North Korea on Monday and North Korean parliamentary chief Choe Thae-bok visited Beijing the next day. Citing a diplomatic source in Washington, the U.S. broadcaster said the Chinese official visited North Korea to persuade the North on its nuclear issue as global sanctions continue on Pyongyang.


Sept. 15 “Webb, Clinton, and Burma … Behind closed doors”

… So, on the day Campbell is being officially sworn in for his position, which senator appears on Clinton's schedule for a closed-door meeting? None other than Webb. … Burma watchers want to know: what could possibly be the topic of discussion?

Perhaps it could be the news report released yesterday by Radio Free Asia reporter Sarah Jackson-Han detailing the Burmese Army's scorched earth campaign against the Karen ethnic group and their forced conscription of children as young as 10.

PBS – MEDIA SHIFT (online)

Sept. 14 “Environmental reporting becomes hazardous work in Egypt, China”

… Lem Piseth, a journalist from Radio Free Asia, also received death threats as a result of his work. “About the story of the forest; I want you to know that you won’t find enough land there to bury you,” he was told. Piseth was forced to flee the country.

Sept. 12 “Whereabouts of U.S. citizen still unknown”

Relatives of a Burmese-born US citizen who was taken into custody shortly after arriving in Rangoon last week said they have received no news about him, and are concerned about his safety. Earlier this week, US-based Radio Free Asia reported that the US State Department said it was seeking consular access to Nyi Nyi Aung.

PBS - NEWSHOUR (online)

Sept. 11 “Reporter's Notebook: Newsrooms grapple with keeping overseas reporting afloat”

… The lineup on the panel I moderated on reporting from closed societies was telling: Three of the four panelists were prize-winning former Washington Post foreign correspondents. … Daniel Southerland, who wrote much of the Post's award-winning coverage of the Tiananmen Square crackdown in China, now runs the field staff for the government-funded Radio Free Asia.


Sept. 11 “China controls activists, internet in run-up to 60th anniversary”

Chinese authorities have increased controls of rights activists and imposed new conditions on internet cafes in the run-up to celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the People's Republic of China on October 1, reports said on Friday.

…A new regulation this week for internet cafes in most major cities and provinces also appeared designed to control the flow of online information ahead of the anniversary, US-based Radio Free Asia reported.


Sept. 10 “Civil war imminent in Burma: observers”

After capturing the Kokang area, the Burmese Army is reinforcing its troops and equipping them with heavy armaments, along the Sino-Burma border, leading military analysts to believe that another war is imminent.

… Quoting local residents, a Radio Free Asia Burmese programme reported that the UWSA on September 5 and 6 held meetings with local residents in 12 townships and told them that if it becomes essential the UWSA would summon one person from each household.


Sept. 6 “Uighur group reports more deaths in Xinjiang, urges UN observers”

… Dru Gladney, a US-based expert on Xinjiang, said over the weekend that biased reporting by China’s state media has worsened the hostility of Han residents towards Urumqi’s Uighur population.

“There hasn’t really been an attempt to have any balanced reporting to try to report the Uighur side of things,” Gladney told US-based Radio Free Asia.


Sept. 4 “Vietnam bloggers arrested over China shirt protest”

Vietnamese police have arrested two bloggers and a journalist for their involvement in a plan to print T-shirts opposing China's investment in a bauxite mining project and its claims over disputed islands, sources said. The arrests underscore how sensitive Vietnam considers relations with China while highlighting the challenge Hanoi faces in keeping public opinion in check as Internet usage blossoms -- and where it draws a line on organised dissent.

… Nha Trang police declined to comment on Quynh's case, but in late July, Radio Free Asia quoted her saying she was questioned for six hours by police after wearing the shirt and posing for a photo in public, which was subsequently posted onto the Internet.


Sept. 4 “Police break up new riots in China’s far west”

Chinese police used tear gas to disperse crowds Friday in the far western city of Urumqi as hundreds of people took to the streets to protest the authorities' failure to stop a spate of apparent ethnic-based attacks with needles.

… US-based Radio Free Asia quoted one witness as saying that Uighurs had ‘used syringes that were contaminated with pesticide, drugs and sulfate to attack people.’


Sept. 2 “Hunan lead poisoning victims denied testing”

In Hunan Province, where over 1,300 kids are reportedly sick with lead poisoning, parents say local authorities are trying to block their children from getting medical tests. State media had reported on August 19th that children living near the Wugang Manganese Smelting Plant had excessive lead in their blood.

And that prompted local officials to promise free medical testing for kids. But according to a report last week by Radio Free Asia—or RFA—officials are not delivering.


Sept. 2 “John Knaus: Potential regime decay”

… One of the most prominent of these developments, and one that is particularly vexing to the regime, is the growing number of independent radio stations broadcasting into North Korea.
These stations, many of them established and run by North Korean defectors, as well as U.S. government-sponsored stations such as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, provide citizens inside North Korea with both an important source of news about what is happening in their own country and a window on the outside world.

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