White House tried to Stop VOA Broadcast
Of Dissident Wei Jingsheng Into China
Amy Williams, Student Editor
FRESNO DESK - The Clinton White House is defending its intervention in the broadcast of a Voice of America interview with an exiled Chinese dissident. Officials deny they tried to stop the broadcast but have admitted attempting to get the Voice of America to cancel the broadcast. At issue here is a direct effort to interfere with the freedom of speech and press rights of the VOA and its intention to broadcast an interview with exiled Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng.
The Wei Jingsheng interview was broadcast as scheduled into China by VOA radio and commercial-television outlets shortly after it was conducted Dec. 10th, however.
But, Clinton administration officials were able to exert enough pressure to actually prevent one portion of the interview from
being televised on a daily news program aired by Worldnet, another U.S.
government broadcast outlet.
VOA later rejected a request by the head of the U.S. Information Agency, Joseph Duffey, that it not televise any6 portion of the
interview on Monday.
The publicly funded VOA is protected by U.S law from such encroachments by the White House. But, Worldnet television is an arm of U.S. foreign-policy.
The VOA fiasco came to the surface on Dec. 9, after U.S. ambassador James Sasser called the National Security Council about Wei's pending broadcast to china over the VOA, according to White House aides.
Sasser, it is said, wanted no interview with Wei beamed into China White House officials have told reporters. The reason given was that any broadcast by Wei would be an insult to the Communist Chinese and would violate
president Clinton's assurances to China that the U.S. would not exploit Wei's release from prison for political purposes.
Clinton's National Security Council then got into the act and called VOA Director Evelyn Lieberman to '...see if the interview could somehow not take place...' according to David Burke, chairman of the International Bureau of
Broadcasting's board, who spoke with Wall Street Journal reporters on Tuesday. Burke depicted Clinton's interference as '...disgraceful that anyone in government would circumvent the Board of Governors, which was designed to be a firewall [against] that kind of pressure.'
Michael McCurry said president Clinton tried to warn VOA officials of '...the foreign policy implications...' of the program featuring dissident Wei Jingsheng, which was considered likely to offend China.
McCurry said Lieberman was not pressured to pull the interview. 'That's not what we did, and that would not be proper' he added.