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S. 3104 (111th): A bill to permanently authorize Radio Free Asia, and for other purposes.


The text of the bill below is as of Mar 11, 2010 (Introduced).


II

111th CONGRESS

2d Session

S. 3104

IN THE SENATE OF THE UNITED STATES

March 11, 2010

(for himself, Mr. Kaufman, Mr. Franken, Mr. Inouye, and Mr. Risch) introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations

A BILL

To permanently authorize Radio Free Asia, and for other purposes.

1.

Findings

Congress finds the following:

(1)

Radio Free Asia (referred to in this Act as RFA)—

(A)

was authorized under section 309 of the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6208);

(B)

was incorporated as a private, non-profit corporation in March 1996 in the hope that its operations would soon be obviated by the global advancement of democracy; and

(C)

is headquartered in Washington, DC, with additional offices in Bangkok, Hong Kong, Phnom Penh, Seoul, Ankara, and Taipei.

(2)

RFA broadcasts serve as substitutes for indigenous free media in regions lacking free media outlets.

(3)

The mission of RFA is to provide accurate and timely news and information to Asian countries whose governments prohibit access to a free press in order to enable informed decisionmaking by the people within Asia.

(4)

RFA provides daily broadcasts of news, commentary, analysis, and cultural programming to Asian countries in several languages, including—

(A)

12 hours per day in Mandarin;

(B)

8 hours per day in 3 Tibetan dialects, Uke, Kham, and Amdo;

(C)

4 hours per day in Korean and Burmese;

(D)

2 hours per day in Cantonese, Vietnamese, Laotian, Khmer (Cambodian), and Uyghur; and

(E)

11/2 hours per week in Wu (local Shanghai dialect).

(5)

The governments of the countries targeted for these broadcasts have consistently denied and blocked attempts at Medium Wave and FM transmissions into their countries, forcing RFA to rely on Shortwave broadcasts and the Internet.

(6)

RFA has provided continuous online news to its Asian audiences since 2004, although some countries—

(A)

routinely and aggressively block RFA’s website;

(B)

monitor access to RFA’s website; and

(C)

discourage online users by making it illegal to access RFA’s website.

(7)

Despite these attempts, RFA has successfully managed to reach its online audiences through proxies, cutting-edge software, and active republication and repostings by its audience.

(8)

RFA also provides forums for local opinions and experiences through message boards, podcasts, web logs (blogs), cell phone-distributed newscasts, and new media, including Facebook, Flickr, Twitter, and YouTube.

(9)

Freedom House has documented that freedom of the press is in decline in nearly every region of the world, particularly in Asia, where none of the countries served by RFA have increased their freedom of the press during the past 5 years.

(10)

As documented in Freedom House’s Index of Global Press Freedom, which annually ranks the nations of the world on this issue, between 2004 and 2009, out of 193 and 195 countries rated for those years—

(A)

China’s ranking dropped from 173rd to 181st;

(B)

Cambodia’s ranking dropped from 127th to 132nd;

(C)

Vietnam’s ranking dropped from 178th to 179th;

(D)

Laos’ ranking dropped from 179th to 184th;

(E)

Burma’s ranking dropped from 190th to 193rd; and

(F)

North Korea’s ranking remained dead last.

(11)

In fiscal year 2010, RFA is operating on a $37,000,000 budget to reach the approximately 1,500,000,000 people who live within the countries served by RFA, less than $400,000 of which is available to fund Internet censorship circumvention.

(12)

Independent media sources are nonexistent or severely restrained in their operations in these areas where the press often serves as a means to promote the government’s agenda.

(13)

Congress currently provides grant funding for RFA’s operations on a fiscal year basis.

2.

Sense of the Senate

It is the sense of the Senate that—

(1)

public access to timely, uncensored, and accurate information is imperative for achieving government accountability and the protection of human rights;

(2)

Radio Free Asia provides a vital voice to people in Asia;

(3)

in the 14 years since RFA was established, freedom of the press in Asia has been reduced, as evidenced by the inability of RFA to broadcast on AM or FM frequencies in the countries served by RFA;

(4)

some of the governments in Asia spend millions of dollars each year to jam RFA’s shortwave, block its Internet sites, and illegally access RFA’s computer networks and user files;

(5)

Congress should provide additional funding to RFA and the other entities overseen by the Broadcasting Board of Governors for—

(A)

Internet censorship circumvention; and

(B)

enhancement of their cyber security efforts; and

(6)

permanently authorizing funding for Radio Free Asia would—

(A)

reflect the concern that media censorship and press restrictions in the countries served by RFA have increased since RFA was established; and

(B)

send a powerful signal of our Nation’s support for free press in Asia and throughout the world.

3.

Permanent authorization for Radio Free Asia

Section 309 of the United States International Broadcasting Act of 1994 (22 U.S.C. 6208) is amended—

(1)

in subsection (c)(2), by striking , and shall further specify that funds to carry out the activities of Radio Free Asia may not be available after September 30, 2010;

(2)

by striking subsection (f);

(3)

by redesignating subsections (g) and (h) as subsection (f) and (g), respectively; and

(4)

in subsection (f), as redesignated—

(A)

by striking The Board and inserting the following:

(1)

Notification

The Board

;

(B)

by striking before entering and inserting the following: “before—

(A)

entering

;

(C)

by striking Radio Free Asia. and inserting the following: “Radio Free Asia; or

(B)

entering into any agreements in regard to the utilization of Radio Free Asia transmitters, equipment, or other resources that will significantly reduce the broadcasting activities of Radio Free Asia.

;

(D)

by striking The Chairman and inserting the following:

(2)

Consultation

The Chairman

; and

(E)

by inserting or Radio Free Asia broadcasting activities before the period at the end.