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Radio Free Asia

Radio Free Asia - Supporting freedom and free speech in Asia
or FREE propaganda service for repressive regimes?

Radio Free Asia was set up by the US Congress supposedly to
promote democracy and free speech in Asia, but throughout
its checkered history there have been regular complaints
alleging complicity with the repressive regimes it was set
up to target. Now RFA has proven the complicity of the RFA
President Mr Richard Richter, Executive Managing Director
Dan Sutherland and Director of Human Resources Jacqueline
Hopkins by dismissing the top Lao Service broadcaster and
the only professional journalist in the section, Mr Vixay
Keonakhone. The Director of the Lao Service Mrs Viengsay
Luangkhot is well known in the Lao community to have had
high level ties with the LPDR embassy in Washington for many
years, and she has received a large volume of highly
critical mail from the Lao community ever since she joined
RFA. We call on the US Congress to set up Congressional
Hearings to investigate this scandalous abuse of US$26
million per year of US taxpayers' funds.

At 3pm on 21st May 1998 Miss Cindy Kim of Radio Free Asia
instructed Mr Vixay Keonakhone, a broadcaster of the Lao
Section of RFA, to attend a meeting at the Human Resources
department of RFA at 3.30pm the same day. No further
information was given, nor any indication that Mr Vixay
should make any preparations for the meeting.

At 3.30pm Mr Vixay found waiting for him in the office of
Mrs Jacqueline Hopkins (Director of Human Resources) a panel
of senior executives of RFA comprising Mr Dan Sutherland
(Executive Managing Director), Mrs Hopkins, Mrs Tamara
Bagley (Human Resources Specialist), and Mrs Viengsay
Luangkhot (Director of Lao Section), who were assembled to
interrogate Mr Vixay without any prior warning.

The panel verbally put to Mr Vixay an absurdly frivolous
collection of wholly unsubstantiated allegations criticising
his work at RFA. In view of RFA's failure to provide
reasonable advance notice in writing of the allegations Mr
Vixay requested an opportunity to make a response to the
allegations in writing at a later date, and the panel then
agreed to provide Mr Vixay with notification in writing of
the allegations against him no later than Tuesday 26th May
1998; Mr Vixay was instructed to respond to the allegations
in writing no later than Thursday 28th May 1998. 

On 26th May Mr Vixay was informed without explanation that
the allegations had been forwarded directly to the President
of RFA WITHOUT even any copy being given to Mr Vixay and
without any proposal to allow Mr Vixay any self-defence
against the allegations. On 28th May 1998 Mr Vixay formally
notified RFA that RFA had not provided the notification of
the allegations against him - as a result of this failure Mr
Vixay was unable to respond. 

At 3pm on 29th May, without further warning, Mr Vixay was
given a letter from the President of RFA Mr Richard Richter,
giving notice of termination of his employment. The letter
specified that employment would be terminated after a period
of 12 days notice, and that during the 12 days notice Mr
Vixay was required to take administrative leave during which
he was not permitted to attend the offices of RFA. He was
required to remove all his belongings and papers from his
desk immediately. 


The conduct of Mr Richter, Mr Sutherland, Mrs Hopkins and
Mrs Luangkhot is in gross and blatant violation of US Labour
law, and wholly unprofessional in every respect and in every
detail. Mr Vixay Keonakhone was a highly professional
journalist with 25 years experience who was dedicated to his
job. He was the ONLY professional journalist on the Lao
Section, and has worked in the Lao Section since its
creation in 1997. At the time of the creation of the Lao
Section Mrs Luangkhot was not in a position of Director of
the section; after her appointment as Director of the
section all the staff she has appointed are supportive of
the communist regime, and none have established a track
record for campaigning for democracy and freedom of speech
in Laos. All professional journalists who have applied for a
job at RFA Lao Section since the appointment of Mrs
Luangkhot have been rejected, including several highly
respected journalists. 

Despite adverse political conditions Mr Vixay has adopted a
highly professional approach to his work in every respect,
placing the utmost priority at all times on the quality and
professionalism of the broadcasts, to the best of his
ability and within the confines of the political censorship
imposed by the Editor-in-chief and the Section Director. An
example of such censorship is that Mrs Luangkhot refused to
allow Mr Vixay to use the word "soon supatook"
(concentration camp) for the death camps in which many tens
of thousands of Lao have died under subhuman conditions
since the takeover of power by the communists in 1975, and
instead required Mr Vixay to use the Lao propaganda term
"soon seminar" (seminar camp) which was a term invented by
the communists in 1975 to avoid instilling fear and
insurrection amongst the prisoners of the old regime while
they were being sent to the death camps.

Mr Vixay has trained all the broadcasting staff of the Lao
Section, including its director Mrs Luangkhot, and has
endeavoured to upgrade their journalistic professionalism.
When other broadcasting staff have floundered and made
embarassing slips that detracted from the professionalism of
the broadcasts (including, on occasion, even inadvertant
slips with highly undesirable sexual connotations), Mr Vixay
has in every case drawn the attention of the broadcaster
concerned to the slips and given them an opportunity to
correct them in order to maintain the professionalism of the
broadcasts to the best of his ability - even though he could
have used such opportunities to undermine the reputation of
incompetent staff and so encourage their dismissal. Instead
Mr Vixay has put the top priority at all times on the
quality of broadcasts, despite the negative constraints
under which he was forced to operate.

Radio Free Asia is an anti-democratic institution managed
like a secret service and hiding under the guise of
allegedly promoting democracy and free speech, used instead
to promote the subversive objectives of the secret service
agencies in partnership with the very transnational
companies that are collaborating with repressive regimes
around the world. This was not the intention of the US
Congress in founding RFA or in approving its current
spending of US taxpayers' funds totalling 26 million dollars
per year, and we call on the US Congress to hold urgent
Congressional Hearings to investigate the abuse of its
mandate by Radio Free Asia and the anti-democratic
activities of Board of Directors.

Please note that despite the harsh criticisms included in
this notice, we believe there are some highly dedicated and
professional journalists working for various sections of
Radio Free Asia, and this notice is directed only against
those who are supporting the communist regimes. 

We invite all those working in the field of democracy
campaigning to contact us if they have any evidence
supporting similar abuses in other sections of RFA -
Vietnam, China, Tibet, Burma, Cambodia and North Korea -
including but not limited to: highly qualified individuals
who have been refused a job at RFA, incidents involving
censorship, inappropriate coverage of news by RFA, failures
to cover important news, etc, as we believe the problems of
the Lao Section also occur in other sections.

We also urge all democracy campaign groups of any of the
seven countries to which RFA broadcasts to fax a statement
to us if they are seriously dissatisfied with the efforts of
RFA to promote democracy and free speech through the
broadcast of appropriate and accurate news in a professional

You can contact the Lao Coordinating Committee as follows:

Fax: 1-703-449-8496
P.O. Box 57120, Washington DC, 20037.