Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Is Radio Free Asia supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

Comment by China Watcher

Richard M Bennett an outspoken contributor in Asia Times retorted to a letter from James K Glassman, Chairman of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors who claimed that Radio Free Asia (RFA) is independent of CIA’s funding and influence. The Chairman was obviously not happy with the allegations made by Mr.Bennett of CIA’s involvement in RFA in his article Tibet, the “great game” and the CIA.

Personally, I find Mr.Bennett’s response direct and factual which I am posting this for the benefit of fellow net lurkers and participants alike.

Is Radio Free Asia supported by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

By Richard M Bennett

I read with interest the complaints made by James K Glassman, chairman of the US Broadcasting Board of Governors about the following passage "... the CIA's deep involvement with the Free Tibet Movement and its funding of the suspiciously well-informed Radio Free Asia ...", contained in my recent article Tibet, the 'great game' and the CIA on March 26.

So after giving this matter some consideration I would be perfectly happy to re-phrase the contested wording, but only as follows " ... the CIA's deep involvement with the Free Tibet Movement and the US Governments funding of the suspiciously well-informed Radio Free Asia in the interests of the CIA ... " Now I trust that will satisfy all concerned and of course I naturally hope that not too much distress was caused to the journalists and staff at this US Government sponsored station by my public linking of Radio Free Asia and the CIA. However, it would be very remiss of me if I failed to record that I am not the first to make this connection.

The well known and much respected Indian columnist, and former senior Indian Intelligence Officer, B Raman in an article published by the South Asia Analysis Group (SAAG) on March 13, 2008, had made a very similar and thought-provoking comment about "Radio Free Asia, the CIA-funded radio station". It must also be remembered that in its original incarnation Radio Free Asia was established and funded by the CIA and run as a dedicated anti-Chinese Communist propaganda station.

John A Lent sums it up nicely in the work he edited in 1978 - ,Broadcasting in Asia and the Pacific: A Continental Survey of Radio and Television (Temple University Press, Philadelphia). Lent writes: " ...Radio Free Asia, an allegedly public-supported (but in reality, CIA-financed) international broadcasting station operated out of San Francisco, but transmitting from Manila, was founded. Its dual mission was to strengthen resistance within China to the new Communist government plus prevent overseas China in Asia from 'falling victim to communist Chinese propaganda'".

Other public sources have added: “Radio Free Asia was originally a radio station broadcasting propaganda for the US-American government in local languages to mostly communist countries in Asia. It was originally founded and funded in 1950 by the CIA through a front organization called "Committee for Free Asia" as an anti-communist propaganda operation, broadcasting from Manila, the Philippines, and Dacca and Karachi, Pakistan (there may be other sites) until 1961. Some offices were in Tokyo. The parent organization was given as the Asia Foundation."

Now the administration and method of channelling large amounts of US Taxpayers hard-earned dollars to Radio Free Asia may have been changed in 1994-96, but these are considered by many observers to be largely cosmetic and intended to provide a degree of deniability. The real reason for the stations very existence almost certainly remains the same: the vested interests of the US Government and its Intelligence Services.

RFA now operates, according an official website, "under the supervision of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), the International Broadcasting Bureau (IBB) provides the administrative and engineering support for US government-funded non-military international broadcast services.

Broadcast elements include the Voice of America (VOA), Radio Sawa, and Radio and TV Mart? (Office of Cuba Broadcasting). In addition, the IBB provides engineering and program support to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and Radio Free Asia". Radio Free Europe, Radio Liberty, Radio Marti and other similar propaganda-style stations have for many years been publicly confirmed as or strongly suspected of, having a strong connection with the CIA.

China certainly views Radio Free Asia as an American propaganda tool and is believed to have sought to jam its broadcasts on numerous occasions. Indeed, there appears to be an obvious bias in the station's programming and in support of this belief I can do no better than let a highly respected former US politician express her views.

As long ago as the late 1990s Adjunct Professor Catharine E Dalpino, Brookings Institution Asian scholar and from 1993 to 1997 also a US deputy assistant secretary of state for human rights, said "I do think Radio Free Asia is propagandistic. It focuses on dissidents who articulate western values and democracy." Dalpino said she had reviewed scripts of Radio Free Asia's broadcasts and views the station's reporting as unbalanced. "They lean very heavily on reports by and about dissidents in exile. It doesn't sound like reporting about what's going in a country. Radio Free Asia is "a waste of money" added Dalpino "Wherever we feel there is an ideological enemy, we're going to have a Radio Free Something" (Dick Kirschten: Broadcast News, GovExec.com, May 1, 1999). So, nothing's changed there then! I don’t think I am therefore being unreasonable to suggest that, and to paraphrase the words of another famous, or infamous depending on your viewpoint, American politician, “If you quack like a duck, look like a duck and keep company with ducks, then in all likelihood you are a duck”.

Now, are you convinced that it is a US propaganda tool?

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