Rep. Dana Rohrabacher Chair of the Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee
Caryn Freeman 2:14PM EST
At a hearing Wednesday held by the House Foreign Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee the question of Americas overseas broadcasting and our national interest while the fighting against tyrannical regimes was in question. Committee Chair Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and ranking member Rep. Russ Carnahan (D-MO) were the only members present for most of the hearing. Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) joined the two members late in the afternoon. "I have called this hearing to investigate one of the greatest failures in recent American foreign policy…" Mr. Carnahan began, "to define and follow a strategic communications strategy." The hearing addressed the role of the State Department, Voice of America and the Broadcasting Board of Governors communication efforts in the fight against the rise of tyrannical regimes by creating access to democratic ideas via short wave radio and the Internet
Rep. Dana Rochbager (R-CA), Chairman and a former Reagan speechwriter was a central player in the Reagan administration’s effort to end communism. Rep. Rohrabacher (R-FL) has critical insight into how messaging played a role in terminating communist regimes through communication efforts in the former Soviet Union. The question of ending short wave radio transmission and turning to the more monitored and censored Internet was hotly debated. "The reality is we are not eliminating short wave communications, we are going totally digital because that is where the audience is," explained Mr. S. Enders Wimbush, representing the broadcasting board of governors.
The Broadcasting Board of Governors argued that the number of people using the Internet so outnumbered those who use short wave radio that the agency felt “they had no other option.” The BBG stressed that they were steadfastly working with new technology, a network of proxy servers that scrambles tracking those who access the Internet, in an attempt to circumvent censorship by the Chinese and Iranian governments, 440 million people in China use this type of technology to get around these firewalls. Rep. Rohrabacher (R-CA) noted that American Internet CEO's are working equally has hard with Chinese governments to prevent the use of proxy firewalls by citizens working to skirt the Chinese government’s efforts to censor Internet access. Mr. Rohrabacher also reminded the Department of State that while he is aware the Department of State works with China on various issues of foreign policy including trade, that "China is still the worst human right violators in the world," he said, and that “the message in the executive branch usually comes from the President and Presidents have to stop censoring their message regarding the actions of the Chinese government,” including the 25,000 intelligence assets that China currently has in the U.S." Jennifer Park Stout, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State told members of Congress that "we (the United States) do not hide the fact that this continues to be an irritant in our relationship."
Amir A. Fakhravar testified that Voice of America, Radio Farda in Iran has changed the mission statement on their website from “To promote freedom and democracy and to enhance understanding through multimedia communication of accurate, objective and balanced news, information and other programming about America and the world to audience overseas.” The site now reads “Our ONLY duty is to report the news.” Mr. Fakhravar also testified that “you find nepotism and people with little to no journalism background among the personnel” and “boycotting and even slandering people they don’t agree with.” “Giving airtime to the doctorial Iranian governments is a misguided effort to achieve so called “journalistic balance,” says Rohrabacher. “American taxpayers should not be furthering the Mullah’s repressive views.”
Rep. David Rivera (R-FL) closed the hearing with a tough round of questions for the BBG regarding their mode of measuring the audience for Voice of America in Cuba. "The largest contract from the BBG is for research and audience measurements at 50 million dollars over five years," Mr. Wimbush of the BBG argued. Rep. Rivera (R-FL) countered with the obvious, "if someone in Cuba gets a phone call asking them if they are doing something illegal, like listening to Voice of America, they will likely say no and hang up," stating “this mode is enormously imprecise and you can't justify the validity of these services by this survey.”
John Lencoszski President of the Institute of World Politics, The Honorable S. Enders Wimbush of Board member Broadcasting Board of Governors, The Honorable Michael Meehan, board member Broadcasting Board of Governors, Jennifer Park Stout, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs at U.S. Department of State, Amir A. Fakhravar, Secretary General, Confederation of Iranian Students, Mr. Philo L. Dibble, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs U.S. Department of State, Shiyu Zhou, Ph.D. Vice President, Institute of World Politics, Mr. Robert Riley former Director Voice of America.