WASHINGTON, D.C. (March 12, 2010) – U.S. Sen. Al Franken (DFL-MN) joined three of his colleagues in the introduction of legislation to permanently authorize Radio Free Asia.
Congress created RFA in 1996 to promote the free dissemination of information in East Asia, a region subject to government censorship of the media, but until now it has had to depend on annual legislative renewals.
“Many immigrants came to Minnesota looking for freedoms that didn’t exist in their home countries,” said Sen. Franken. “Free speech and a free press are integral parts of democracy, and something I can’t imagine living without. For many listeners in East Asia, RFA is the only opportunity they have to find out accurate information about their countries. That’s why we need to protect it.”
RFA broadcasts news into Burma, Cambodia, China, Laos, North Korea, Tibet, and Vietnam in local languages and dialects. Over the last five years censorship and government intimidation of the media have worsened in these areas, according to the human rights non-governmental organization Freedom House. RFA reaches the majority of its audiences through short-wave radio and via the Internet using proxy servers, both frequently inhibited by local governments.
RFA has been funded by Congressional appropriations each year since it began broadcasting but has never been permanently authorized.
Sen. Dick Lugar (R-Ind.) sponsored the permanent authorization and was joined by Sen. Franken and Sens. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.), and Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) as original cosponsors.